What is Partial Knee Replacement Surgery?

Partial knee replacement, also known as unicompartmental knee replacement or arthroplasty (UKR or UKA) refers to the surgical procedure in which only a portion of a damaged knee joint is replaced with artificial material. It is an alternative to total knee replacement for patients whose disease is limited to just one area of the knee.

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Partial Knee replacement

 

When Do I Need UKA?

In degenerative bone conditions such as osteoarthritis, the cartilage and bone of the knee are slowly worn away. The knee is made up of 3 compartments, the medial compartment (the inside part of the knee), the lateral compartment (the outside part), and the patellofemoral compartment (the front of the knee between the kneecap and thighbone). Advanced osteoarthritis may affect the entire knee or just one compartment of the knee.

 

If only one area of the knee is affected and nonsurgical options (medications, physical therapy, lifestyle changes) have been exhausted, partial knee replacement may be recommended by the doctor. However, you may not be eligible for the procedure if you display the following symptoms.

 

  • Inflammatory arthritis
  • Significant knee stiffness
  • Ligament damage

 

As such, the doctor will have to carefully assess your condition to determine whether a partial knee replacement surgery is the most suitable option for you. This is done by going through your medical history, doing a physical examination to locate the source of knee pain, and running tests such as X-rays and MRI to assess the extent of your knee condition.

 

How Does Partial Knee Replacement Surgery Help Me?

The ultimate goal of performing knee replacement surgery is to restore mobility to the knees and relieve pain symptoms. Moreover, partial knee replacement surgery has also been seen to have a quicker recovery period and less pain experienced after surgery.

 

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What Should I Expect Before UKA?

If you have decided to have a knee replacement surgery, the doctor will discuss anaesthesia options with you (either general or spinal) and also run other tests to determine whether you have any other medical conditions that need to be treated beforehand. Other things to expect are:

 

  • Stopping blood-thinning medications and TCM herbs 2 weeks before surgery
  • Stopping smoking immediately
  • No eating or drinking 8 hours before surgery

 

What Happens During UKA?

The patient is first given anesthesia (either general or spinal). After the anesthesia has taken effect, the skin around the knee is thoroughly scrubbed with an antiseptic fluid. The knee is bent about 90 degrees and the lower portion of the leg, including the foot, is placed in a special device to securely hold it in place during the surgery. An incision is made at the front of your knee and the surgeon will inspect the joint to confirm that the damage is limited to only one compartment. After that, the surgeon will perform a partial knee replacement. The steps are outlined below:

 

  • Prepare the boneYour surgeon will use special saws to remove the cartilage from the damaged compartment of your knee.
  • Position the metal implantsThe removed cartilage and bone are replaced with metal coverings that recreate the surface of the joint. These metal parts are typically held to the bone with cement.
  • Insert a spacer – A plastic insert is placed between the two metal components to create a smooth gliding surface.

 

How Long Can I Expect To Recover From Surgery?

After surgery, you may be given medications to ease the pain and encouraged to begin mild full-weight-bearing physical activity on the affected leg, usually in the same afternoon as the day of the surgery. You will probably be discharged from the hospital in 2-3 days.

 

As for the recovery process, it will vary from person to person. In general, you can expect around 2 weeks for the surgical wound to heal. You may require the help of walking aids to get around for about 4 weeks.

partial knee replacement surgery by a doctor

During that time, attending physiotherapy sessions and doing knee exercises are highly recommended so that you can restore strength and mobility to your knees.

 

While the success rate for knee replacement surgery is high, you should still follow up with an orthopaedic clinic regularly so that your progress can be monitored and any complications can be dealt with swiftly.

 

What Are The Potential Complications of UKA?

Unicompartmental knee replacement is generally a safe procedure. The risk of major complication after total knee replacement is <1%. Risks of UKR include getting blood clots in the legs or pelvis, infection in the surgical wound, and the need for additional surgery if osteoarthritis progresses to other compartments of the knee. Your surgeon will discuss all the risks with you and will take all the necessary precautions to reduce the risk of complications.

 


Our Doctors

Dr Tan Sok Chuen

Orthopaedic Surgery Specialist

Dr Tan Sok Chuen is an orthopaedic surgery specialist with subspecialty training in hip and knee surgery – making her the first female hip and knee replacement surgeon in Singapore. She has trained and educated junior doctors through various teaching programmes and courses. Dr Tan has also made many contributions to the scientific literature on hip and knee arthroplasty and her publications on trunnionosis in hip replacements are frequently quoted in indexed journals.

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Dr Adrian Lau

Orthopaedic Surgery Specialist

Dr Adrian Lau is a specialist orthopaedic surgeon trained in primary and complex hip and knee arthroplasty. His clinical practice comprises mainly of total knee replacements, total hip replacements, complex hip and knee replacements, revision surgeries, prosthetic joint infections, and periprosthetic fractures. Dr Lau also plays an active role in the education and training of junior doctors and is a recipient of numerous awards, one of them being the Ministry of Health Training Award in 2014.

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Dr Tan Sok Chuen and Dr Adrian Lau


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Certain Orthopaedic procedures done at our Clinic is claimable under Medisave and Integrated Shield Plans.

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Our doctors are trained and highly experienced in diagnosing and treating orthopaedics conditions. We aim to provide you with quality care by thoroughly assessing your condition and personalising your treatments to your needs and goals.

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