Syracuse Area Health – Strasburger Orthopaedics

Full VS. Partial Knee Replacement

If you have severe osteoarthritis in your knee joint, you may be a candidate for knee replacement. Your doctor may recommend a full or a partial knee replacement based on a few different factors.   

Anatomy of the knee

The knee has three separate “compartments”, of which any or all may be affected by osteoarthritis:  

  • The patellofemoral compartment is the front of the knee.
  • The lateral compartment is the outside of the knee.
  • The medial compartment is the inside aspect of the knee.

If only one compartment of the knee is affected, it is typically the medial compartment (less common is involvement only of the lateral compartment).

Types of knee replacement

A partial (or unicondylar) knee replacement is used when only one compartment of the knee is affected. In most cases, the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and posterior cruciate ligament are preserved. In a full knee replacement, these ligaments may be lost during the surgical process. An exception is when an assisted surgical system like NAVIO is used and a specialized implant designed to preserve the ACL is placed in the knee.  

Which type of knee replacement is best?

For knee patients who are over 60, have good range of motion, only have osteoarthritis in one knee compartment, and who don’t play a high strain sport like tennis or golf, a partial knee replacement may be advised.

The main advantage of a partial knee replacement is a shorter recovery time, but the main disadvantage is the likelihood of having to do a revision surgery or a full knee replacement after some years have passed. It is estimated that only 6% to 10% of knee joint patients are suitable candidates for partial knee replacement.

For patients who have advanced osteoarthritis or inflammatory (rheumatoid) arthritis, who have already lost much of their range of motion, who are under 60 years of age, or who want to return to a very active lifestyle, a full knee replacement may be the better option.

A full knee replacement typically has a better outcome, although the recovery is longer. With a NAVIO assisted surgery and a high quality JOURNEY™ II XR. bi-cruciate retaining total knee system, you could regain more range of motion and enjoy results for many more years than with a partial knee replacement.  

Dr. Strasburger can evaluate your knee pain, range of motion, lifestyle, and other factors and help you towards the best choice of knee replacement surgery for you.