Partial Knee Resurfacing vs. Total Knee Replacement?

What’s the difference between a partial knee resurfacing or replacement and a total knee replacement? Well, they are both designed to improve the pain and function of patients with arthritis that had damage the surface articular cartilage of their knees. The partial resurfacing or replacement only replaces the one specific area of the knee affected by the damage to the the articular cartilage. We divide the knee in to 3 main zones or areas that can be affected by arthritis. The patello-femoral joint or the joint involving the back of the patella or knee cap and the groove the knee cap normally runs in. This becomes worn in isolation often in patients who have had patellar instability that has not previously been treated or where they have had trauma involving this joint such as a fracture. By resurfacing the worn out joint surface with highly engineered and polished cobalt chrome on the groove and cross linked polyethylene on the back of the knee cap the knee then glides as it was intended and pain improves. The rest of the joint remains untouched as do the ligaments around and in the knee, and as a result recovery tends to be quicker than a total knee replacement and the risks of surgery less than a total knee replacement.

A similar situation occurs with the joints between the femur (thigh bone) and the tibia (shin bone). Arthritis often occurs here after injuries to the disc of cartilage called the meniscus. Osteoarthritis can develop with the associated pain. If this is again just involving one compartment of the knee, then it makes sense that we only resurface or replace that one small area rather than the whole knee. Partial medial and lateral knee resurfacing or replacement is a procedure that has a quicker recovery and less risk than a total knee replacement. As it retains your ligaments patients often report that it feel much more like their own knee.


If you have arthritis that is more severe and affects all of the knee then it may be right to be offered a total knee replacement. This resurfaces or replaces the joint surface through out all three compartments of the knee and also the internal ligaments of the knee the anterior cruciate ligament or ACL and the posterior cruciate ligament or PCL.


Contact us now to find out more about these options for your knee pain.