Partial Knee Replacement

May 5th, 2022

Knee pain can be all-consuming and a detriment to your day-to-day life. Whether it’s soreness at the end of the day, difficulty performing everyday tasks, or pain when exercising, no one should have to constantly battle knee pain. 

If you’re suffering from consistent knee pain, and non-operative methods have been ineffective, a partial knee replacement could help get you moving comfortably again. In order to better understand if a partial knee replacement is right for you, we must first understand what a partial knee replacement is, as well as the symptoms that might cause someone to need a partial knee replacement.

What is a partial knee replacement? 

A partial knee replacement is a surgical procedure for individuals with damage to their knees that cause them to suffer from pain and a loss of mobility. During a partial knee replacement, the surgeon will remove the damaged parts of the joint, usually localized to one of the three compartments of the joint.  It will then be replaced with a plastic, ceramic, or metal piece. These implants will work together with the original healthy parts of the joint to provide pain-free joint use and increase mobility. 

A successful partial knee replacement will be mostly healed in 4-12 weeks, though getting the full benefit from the surgery can take up to one year. After 4-12 weeks, the patient can get back to the regular activities and sports they enjoyed prior to the surgery. Perhaps more importantly, over 90% of partial knee replacements provide full mobility and comfort for more than a decade. 

Partial knee replacement vs. total knee replacement 


The decision between a partial knee replacement or a total knee replacement is a big choice. You should consult with your surgeon and see which procedure is the best option for you, but first let’s get a better understanding of the differences and similarities between the two. 

As we discussed above, in a partial knee replacement, the surgeon will remove the most damaged sections of the joint and replace them with artificial parts. The new artificial parts will work in combination with the healthy section of the original joint.

In contrast, a total knee replacement involves the surgeon removing the entire joint and replacing it with a metal, plastic, or ceramic joint. A total knee replacement has a longer recovery time since it is more invasive than a partial knee replacement. 

Signs you might need a partial or total knee replacement

You might be a candidate for a partial knee replacement if you’ve been experiencing any of these symptoms, or suffer from pain associated with knee arthritis:

  • Consistent pain in the knee

  • Stiffness and swelling around the joint

  • Decrease in mobility

  • Difficulty completing everyday tasks because of pain

  • Trouble sleeping due to pain

  • Non-operative treatment methods are or are becoming ineffective 


If you have been diagnosed with knee arthritis, such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, or psoriasis, you are more likely to wear down healthy cartilage in the knees, which leads to rapid deterioration of the joint. Because of the nature of these ailments, people with knee arthritis are more likely to need some sort of operative knee surgery during the course of their lives.

How long does a partial knee replacement last?

Partial knee replacements have a lifetime similar to the rates of those who undergo total knee replacements. 92.9% of partial knee replacements still function well after ten years, and 87.8% of replacements last 15 years, according to a study done in 2020. The lifespan of these artificial joints is dependent on the type of usage, age, and health of the patient. An artificial joint in someone who frequently participates in high-impact sports might have a shorter lifetime than someone who doesn’t. 97% of patients said they were pleased with their partial knee replacement outcome. 

What happens during partial knee replacement surgery?

Before a partial knee replacement, the surgeon and their team will review your medical history and most recent X-rays to determine an appropriate plan and decide which types of artificial pieces they will use. Once in the operating room, the surgical team will locate the damaged cartilage and bone, remove it, and replace it with the artificial pieces. The procedure usually takes between 45 minutes to an hour to complete. Afterward, you can expect to be leave the facility the same day or the next day. The staff will check your progress and develop a post-operative plan, including physical therapy.

What can I expect after partial knee replacement and recovery?


In the hospital

After your surgery, you’ll spend some time in the recovery room as you wake up. The staff will monitor your vitals and administer pain medicine if you are experiencing discomfort. You are up and walking only hours after surgery. The sooner you start walking, the faster your total recovery time will be. You will likely begin walking shortly after surgery. You can expect to stay go home the same day or stay in the hospital overnight and then be head home to recover.


At home

Like any major surgery, you’ll need some help during your recovery period. Make sure someone is available to help you at home during the first few days of your recovery. 

You’ll be able to do some light walking with the assistance of a cane or walker. You can expect discomfort during this, so your doctor will advise you on what to take to help treat your pain. If you are experiencing more severe pain, your doctor will likely prescribe you a pain management medication. 

Once you’ve rested for a few days, it will be time to start sessions with a rehabilitation specialist. Working with a physical therapist will help you regain full joint mobility, teach you exercises to promote blood flow to the area, and get you back to your everyday life as quickly as possible. Most patients get back to their daily activities in 3-6 weeks. You’ll work with a physical therapist for 4-6 weeks after your surgery or until you have fully recovered. 

Is it time to see an orthopedic surgeon?

If at-home knee pain treatments aren’t providing relief and you’re considering surgery to relieve a constant discomfort, reach out to our specialized team at Rothman Orthopaedics. Our staff of world-renowned experts are ready to help you discuss treatment options and determine whether a partial knee replacement is right for you. Your start to pain-free living is just a call away at 1-800-321-9999, or by making an appointment online through our scheduling tool.

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