Partial vs Total Knee Replacement: What You Need to Know

Partial vs Total Knee Replacement: What You Need to Know

Knee replacements are a common means of alleviating chronic joint pain — here’s what you should know about partial and total knee replacement surgery if you’re considering pursuing the procedure

2018 marks the 50th anniversary of the first knee replacement surgery. In the half century since then, the procedure has helped millions of people regain strength and mobility in their knees, dramatically improving their quality of life. As common as this procedure is, however, many people are still unaware of the distinctions between partial and total knee replacement. We’ll clear up the primary differences, and guide you through what to expect from the surgery and recovery process.


Partial and total knee replacement surgeries are used to address the same conditions, including advanced arthritis, trauma, injuries associated with overuse, and certain symptoms of connective tissue disorders. Your orthopedic specialist will recommend which procedure to pursue based on the extent of damage to the knee, which determines how much or little of the joint must be replaced. If only an isolated part of the knee is damaged, for example, a partial replacement may be preferable, but more severe damage should generally be treated with a total knee replacement.


Total knee replacement surgery is an open procedure during which the surgeon removes the damaged portions of the knee joint and replaces them with prosthetic parts. Once the new, artificial knee has been implanted, the joint is drained, sealed, and bandaged. In contrast, partial knee replacement surgery is usually a less invasive procedure, since only specific parts of the joint are removed and replaced.

Because it’s an invasive procedure, total knee replacement requires a short stay in the hospital, generally no longer than five to seven days. There will likely be pain and swelling in the treated knee, and many patients will need to use a walker or crutches in the first weeks after surgery. Physical therapy will usually begin on the day of the surgery and continue until the knee has completely healed.

Recovery timelines for patients that undergo total knee replacement are fairly consistent. Most patients regain complete range of motion within two weeks of surgery, and should be able to bend their knee at a ninety degree angle after six weeks. At this time, they can begin to walk with a cane, as well as drive and return to work. After ten months, patients should be able to resume most daily activities, though additional physical therapy sessions might be needed to reinforce the knee’s load-bearing capabilities.

Since it’s a less invasive procedure, partial knee replacement comes with a shorter recovery timeline, with some patients able to leave the hospital on the day of the procedure and most within a few days of it. Most patients can walk without restrictions and begin physical therapy after a few days, and resume most daily activities after four to six weeks.


Pursuing knee replacement of any kind can seem daunting, but this procedure can provide immense relief for the vast majority of patients, increasing their mobility and improving their quality of life. It also provides long-lasting relief, with 90 to 95% of all total knee replacements functioning for at least 15 years.

Whether you suffer from arthritis or damaged ligaments, our team at New York Bone and Joint can help. Our specialists can assist you from the moment you opt for surgery to the day of your final follow-up appointment, ensuring a full, speedy recovery. If you’re considering a knee replacement, contact us today to schedule a consultation.

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