Surgical Options for Osteoarthritic Knees

Osteoarthritis of the knee, also known as wear and tear arthritis, occurs when the cartilage - the natural cushioning between the joints - wears away. Osteoarthritis causes the bones of the joints to rub more closely against one another, leading to pain, swelling, stiffness, and reduced mobility.

The most common cause of osteoarthritis of the knee is aging. The ability of cartilage to heal decreases as we get older. Extra weight, repetitive stress injuries, and other illnesses such as rheumatoid arthritis may also contribute to osteoarthritis.

Patients with osteoarthritis of the knee often report symptoms such as pain that increases with activity but improves with rest. Other symptoms may include swelling, feelings of warmth in the joints, stiffness of the knee, decreased mobility in the knee, and crackly sounds when the knee moves.

Initially, conservative treatments such as exercise, diet, physical therapy, medications, and bracing are usually recommended to treat osteoarthritis of the knee. However, if these treatments prove to be ineffective, the following surgeries may be an option:

  • Total knee replacement surgery: In a total knee replacement surgery, a surgeon will remove all damaged cartilage and bone from the surface of the knee joint and replace it with a metal and plastic implant. This procedure is often recommended to patients who have severe knee damage as it can help decrease pain and increase mobility.
  • Partial knee replacement surgery: Partial knee replacement surgery is an alternative to total knee replacement surgery for some patients, and involves replacing only one damaged part of the knee joint. It is usually for patients with osteoarthritis in only one area of their knee. Since more of the knee structure will be maintained in a partial knee replacement surgery, patients will enjoy an expedited recovery as well as a more natural feeling when they move their knee.

Not all total and partial knee replacements are alike. New technologies like the NAVIO Surgical System help your surgeon position implants more accurately, which may help you regain mobility and have a more "natural-feeling" knee.

If your knee pain limits your everyday activities, persists while resting, limits your ability to move or bend your leg, or does not improve with conservative measures, a doctor may recommend a surgical option. In most cases, patients who undergo surgery for osteoarthritis of the knee are between the ages of 50 and 80.

The information in this article is for informational and educational purposes and is not meant as medical advice. Every patient's case is unique and each patient should follow his or her doctor's specific instructions. Please discuss nutrition, medication and treatment options with your doctor to make sure you are getting the proper care for your particular situation.

Individual results of knee replacement vary. Implants are intended to relieve knee pain and improve function, but may not produce the same feel or function as your original knee. There are potential risks with knee replacement surgery such as loosening, wear and infection that may result in the need for additional surgery. Patients should not perform high impact activities such as running and jumping unless their surgeon tells them that the bone has healed and these activities are acceptable. Early device failure, breakage or loosening may occur if a surgeon's limitations on activity level are not followed. Consult your physician for details to determine if knee replacement surgery is right for you.


All information provided on this website is for information purposes only. Every patient's case is unique and each patient should follow his or her doctor's specific instructions. Please discuss nutrition, medication and treatment options with your doctor to make sure you are getting the proper care for your particular situation. If you are seeking this information in an emergency situation, please call 911 and seek emergency help.

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