Partial and Total Knee Replacement: How are they different?

From Noyes Knee Institute

Strong, healthy knees are important for your mobility. Unfortunately, the knee joint is easily injured and is susceptible to damage from arthritis. Any damage or injury to the knee is painful and may limit your daily activities. Depending on which part of your knee is damaged, you may have the option of either a total or partial knee replacement.

Learn more about the difference between partial and total knee replacement to decide which is right for you.

Parts of the Knee

The knee joint consists of four bones: the femur, tibia, fibula, and patella. Four ligaments — two collateral and two cruciate — stabilize the connection of the bones while allowing movement. Menisci, or cartilage, minimizes the trauma of the femur and tibia sliding across each other, and small sacs of fluid between bones allow for smooth movement.

The knee is also divided into three distinct compartments: The medial compartment is the section of knee on the inside of the leg, the lateral compartment is on the outside of the leg, and the patellofemoral compartment is the area directly under the kneecap. A partial knee replacement is done when only one of these compartments is damaged.

Total Knee Replacement

A total knee replacement involves resurfacing the ends of the tibia and femur to remove all the damaged tissue. The damage could be deteriorated bone, cracked bone, or calcified bone as well as the damaged cartilage. Once the bad tissue is removed, metal caps are placed over the bones to recreate their original shape and size. These caps may snap on snugly or be glued in place.

With the bones recreated, the doctor determines whether the kneecap has been damaged or not. If there is damage, the underside will be cleaned, and then a plastic disc will be fit into place. Finally, plastic pacers are placed between all parts that may rub or slide against each other during movement.

Either or both of the cruciate ligaments of the knee may be removed during a total knee replacement if they are damaged. The collateral ligaments are not removed. When a cruciate ligament is taken out, the metal caps over the bones have a ridge or locking mechanism to ensure your bones do not move too far or slip out of place.

Partial Knee Replacement

A partial knee replacement requires the same resurfacing and metal caps but involves either the medial or lateral compartment. If both compartments have damaged tissue, or if the problem is within the patellofemoral compartment, a different treatment is needed.

If your knee is unstable and the bones slip to the side, forward, or backward, partial knee replacement is not an option. In addition, the anterior cruciate ligament must not be damaged for this procedure to work. No ligament is removed during a partial knee replacement.

When only one compartment needs repaired, you may consider a partial knee replacement. If your doctor deems you a good candidate for this procedure you will experience a few benefits over a total knee replacement. One of the most important benefit is that your knee will still function the way it always has because less of the joint is removed and replaced.

With a partial replacement, you may require more surgery and a total replacement in the future. One reason for this is that a partial replacement does not last as long as a total replacement. The other reason is that the remaining natural parts of the joint may become damaged as you age and require replacement too.


New Mexico Orthopaedics is a multi-disciplinary orthopaedic clinic located in Albuquerque New Mexico. We have multiple physical therapy clinics located throughout the Albuquerque metro area.

New Mexico Orthopaedics offers a full spectrum of services related to orthopaedic care and our expertise ranges from acute conditions such as sports injuries and fractures to prolonged, chronic care diagnoses, including total joint replacement and spinal disorders.

Because our team of highly-trained physicians specialize in various aspects of the musculoskeletal system, our practice has the capacity to treat any orthopaedic condition, and offer related support services, such as physical therapy, WorkLink and much more.

If you need orthopedic care in Albuquerque New Mexico contact New Mexico Orthopaedics at 505-724-4300.

7-Things-to-Know-About-Your-New-Knee

7 Things to Know About Your New Knee

From WebMD

Congrats on your new knee! You’re one of 600,000 Americans who get the joint replaced every year. You may be thrilled to walk again without pain or no longer face staircases with dread.

But don’t expect superhuman powers just yet. Here are seven things to know about your newest body part.

  1. You can do (almost) everything as before.

You can usually expect huge improvements in pain and mobility after knee replacement. But if you never ran a mile in your life, you won’t win races with your new knee. In fact, most surgeons recommend you stay away from high-impact exercises like jogging or jumping rope, even if you did them before. The sheer force can loosen or break your implant or make it wear out faster. Skiing, mountain biking, and even kayaking also may be off-limits because of the chance that you could fall and the break bones around the implant.

You’ll still have lots of other ways to stay active. You can walk, swim, bike, do light hikes, and even play doubles tennis. Weight training will give you stronger muscles and bones. Be sure to ramp up by doing more reps instead of adding heavier weights.

  1. It won’t feel exactly like your old knee.

You’ll have less pain, for one. You also may notice other strange differences. For example, your new knee may click and pop. That’s the sound of the metal and plastic in your implant rubbing against each other. If it doesn’t hurt, you don’t need to worry. You might have trouble kneeling. Bending down won’t harm your new joint. But about half of all people who have knee replacement surgery say they don’t like the feeling when they kneel.

  1. Your new knee will be with you for a long while.

Almost nine out of 10 people find that their new body part holds up for at least 20 years. Even 2 decades after their surgery, people who’ve had their knee replaced tend to be more physically active than their same-age peers with natural knee joints. You can save wear and tear on your new knee by keeping a healthy weight.

  1. You may need extra time at the airport.

Chances are, your knee implant will almost always set off the airport metal detector. That can trigger a hand pat-down screening by a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agent. If the security checkpoint has a full-body scanner, you can go through that instead. You may still be searched a second time if the agents think they see something suspicious on the screen. You can print and carry a small TSA notification card to let the agent know you have an artificial knee, but this will not always stop them from searching you again. You also can speed things up by wearing clothes that easily let you reveal your surgical scar.

  1. You needn’t worry about visits to the dentist.

For years, both orthopedic surgeons and dentists recommended that people with artificial knees or hips get a shot of antibiotics before any dental procedures, including simple cleaning, that might make gums bleed. They worried that bacteria in the mouth could get into your bloodstream and reach the site of the implant. In 2015, the American Dental Association said it was no longer routinely needed. People with knee implants whose immune systems are weak or who may be prone to infections may still need antibiotics before a dental procedure.

  1. You may need new habits for your knee.

Even if you’re able to return to full normal after your surgery, you’ll need to mind your artificial knee for the rest of your life. Avoid lifting anything more than 20 pounds. That can stress the joint too much. Don’t jerk the leg with the implant. Turn by taking small steps. Pivoting sharply — your toes pointed in one direction and your thigh and upper body in another — can damage the implant and wear it out sooner.

  1. Sometimes, you have to have repeat surgery.

Nearly one out of 10 people end up needing to repair or replace their artificial knee. More than two-thirds of these operations are done within the first year, usually because the joint gets infected. Repeat surgeries that happen later more often involve a loose implant, which can be painful or can leave your knee unstable. Always keep a watch on your artificial joint. If you suddenly have pain, swelling, and trouble moving, call your surgeon.


New Mexico Orthopaedics is a multi-disciplinary orthopaedic clinic located in Albuquerque New Mexico. We have multiple physical therapy clinics located throughout the Albuquerque metro area.

New Mexico Orthopaedics offers a full spectrum of services related to orthopaedic care and our expertise ranges from acute conditions such as sports injuries and fractures to prolonged, chronic care diagnoses, including total joint replacement and spinal disorders.

Because our team of highly-trained physicians specialize in various aspects of the musculoskeletal system, our practice has the capacity to treat any orthopaedic condition, and offer related support services, such as physical therapy, WorkLink and much more.

If you need orthopedic care in Albuquerque New Mexico contact New Mexico Orthopaedics at 505-724-4300.