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Recovery Time & Pain After a Partial Knee Replacement

By Andrew Sheldon ; Updated August 14, 2017

Partial knee replacement involves replacing part of your knee with an artificial implant when the joint has been severely damaged to the point that it causes chronic pain and immobility. While you may experience some pain after the procedure, your knee will eventually feel better than it did before the operation. Full recovery time varies, but generally takes about six weeks.

Definition

A partial knee replacement, or unicompartmental knee arthroplasty, is a procedure done to replace part of your knee when the joint has become painful or dysfunctional. During the procedure, either the inner or outer compartment out your knee is replaced with a metal or plastic implant. Partial knee replacement only affects the damaged part of your knee, while preserving the healthy area of the joint.

Why It’s Done

Partial knee replacement is commonly done if you are suffering from severe arthritis in a limited part of your knee. Additionally, it is usually only performed if conservative treatments, such as medication, physical therapy and weight loss, prove to be ineffective.

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The Procedure

Before the surgery begins, you will be given an anesthetic. An incision will then be made over your knee to expose the damaged cartilage. The damaged part of your femur (thigh bone) and tibia (shin bone) are cut flat and cleaned. Then the implant is inserted and secured, and the wound is stitched together. The operation generally takes about an hour and a half.

Recovery

You will usually stay in the hospital for a day or two following your surgery. However, you should start to put weight on your operated leg immediately. You will need to use a cane, crutches or a walker when you first start walking. It is encouraged to move your foot and ankle, even while sitting, in order to increase blood flow to your leg and prevent swelling and blood clots.

A physical therapist can help you create an exercise program in order to regain the strength in your knee. This program will be customized based on your age and activity level. It will most likely include a walking program and knee-strengthening exercises, and help you gradually resume normal activities.

Pain

You may experience some pain following the procedure. Your doctor can prescribe medication to help relieve it. Fortunately, there is usually less pain involved with partial knee replacement compared to total replacement. Additionally, as your knee heals, it will hurt considerably less than it did before the operation.

Prognosis

You should be able to walk without assistance week or two after surgery. You will gradually be able to resume daily activities within four to six weeks.

Partial knee replacement is considered an effective treatment option, as most patients experience pain relief and improved mobility in their knee.

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