Should You Remove Some Or All?

Partial joint replacement surgery is an increasingly popular alternative to total joint replacement surgery. As the name suggests, the procedure only removes a part of the joint, then installs a prosthetic implant. Partial joint replacement allows patients to keep more of the natural bone, tissue, and ligaments. This surgery is less invasive and less painful than total joint replacement surgeries. Complete joint procedures involve replacing the entire damaged bone with artificial material. Everyone is not a candidate for partial joint replacement, but those who are candidates have a few added benefits.

How it’s done

Thanks to minimally invasive techniques, partial joint replacement is a faster, more straightforward process with smaller incisions. Depending on the joint, the medical team will first administer general or local anesthesia. Next, the surgeon will make an incision over the joint that needs to be replaced. For minimally invasive surgery, this is a small incision to insert a scope that will help view the diseased joint. Next, the surgeon will locate and remove the diseased bone or tissue. Afterward, the prosthetic implant will be placed where the damaged part was removed. Once positioned, the prosthetic is attached using bone cement, and the incision is closed with stitches.

Less pain and risk

A partial joint replacement is less invasive because the surgeon can perform the procedure through a smaller incision. While some may experience pain after surgery, the pain is generally shorter. Fewer nerves are cut and damaged during the surgery, reducing risk of severe complications. Partial joint replacement surgery has a lower risk of blood clots, infections, or embolism than total replacement surgery. There’s also less risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Fewer patients are also affected by post-operative infections after partial joint replacement than a total replacement.

Cut down your recovery

Since partial surgery is less invasive, recovery is also shorter. However, the recovery time after partial joint replacement still varies depending on the location of the surgery. Partial shoulder replacement patients, for instance, can return to desk work in 2-3 weeks, with full use by the eighth week. Most patients return to daily activities for partial knee replacement within 3-6 weeks. Athletes and active patients, on the other hand, need physical rehabilitation before returning to playing within 6-8 weeks. Partial hip replacement surgery patients need 10-12 weeks to return to normal activities. Complete recovery may take 6-12 months.

Ask your doctor

Patients should remember that partial joint replacement surgery isn’t suitable for everyone. Furthermore, doctors do not recommend this process as the first option for people with arthritis. For instance, patients with arthritis in the entire knee will benefit from a total replacement. However, for patients who are candidates, partial joint replacement surgery may be worth considering. Patients with questions about the procedure should consult a surgeon.