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What is the difference between a total and partial knee replacement?

The difference between a total and partial knee replacement is that a total or full knee replacement replaces all of the cartilage in the knee, including the inside, outside and knee cap portion of the knee. A partial knee replacement only replaces the affected side, leaving good cartilage and good ligaments intact. The most frequent partial knee replacement is medial or inside knee replacement, followed by patellofemoral replacement, which involves replacing the undersurface of the knee cap and the groove that the knee cap glides within.

A total joint replacement is a procedure that places a new "cap" on the end of the femur (thigh bone) and tibia (shin bone). This usually involves a resurfacing of the patella (kneecap). All total joint replacement takes away the ACL ligament and many take away the PCL ligament (ligaments in the center of the knee). This procedure is very effective, and there have been advances in the materials, size options, surgical instruments, and techniques. A partial knee replacement only resurfaces the part of the knee that is involved and leaves the ACL/PCL. Not everyone is a candidate for a partial knee replacement because the arthritis may involve more than one area, there may be a joint contracture (limited motion), or a significant deformity. Your surgeon can help make those determinations. The advantages are that the knee moves more like a normal knee if done in the correct patient. Robotic surgery has improved our ability to more precisely place these partial knees.

In a total knee replacement all of the knee's bones and cartilage are replaced; in a partial knee replacement, only portions of the knee are replaced.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.