Surgical Knee Pain Treatment Options

Your physician may recommend surgery when non-surgical options fail, or if your knee pain worsens over time. The following are the most common surgical options for knee pain caused by osteoarthritis.

  • Arthroscopy. A camera based procedure performed through small incisions that can be used to confirm a cartilage wear, remove loose cartilage, or smooth out areas of worn cartilage. Arthroscopy becomes less effective as osteoarthrosis advances.
  • Osteotomy. A procedure that is not very common today. This procedure aims to re-align the bones around the knee to take pressure off the knee joint.
  • Knee Replacement. This is the most common surgical treatment for osteoarthritic knee pain. Knee replacement can mean either a partial knee replacement or total knee replacement. In this procedure, the damaged part of the knee or the entire knee is removed and replaced with metal and plastic components commonly referred to as implants.

Partial Knee Replacement

Partial knee replacement is for early to mid-stage osteoarthritis, generally limited to one compartment of the knee. The procedure removes and replaces the damaged portion of the knee with metal and plastic components called an implant. Because a partial knee replacement is done through a small incision and preserves much of your natural knee, patients usually spend less time in the hospital and return to normal activities sooner than total knee replacement patients.1 Partial knee replacement patients often feel as if they have a more normal feeling in comparison to total knee replacement patients.2

Knee with osteoarthritis on the inside (medial) compartment, a possible partial knee replacement candidate.

Partial knee implant.

Partial knee implant in final position.

Total Knee Replacement

Total knee replacement may be necessary if osteoarthritis progresses to an advanced stage, affecting most of the knee joint. The procedure removes and replaces the entire knee joint with metal and plastic components called an implant. Most patients who undergo a total knee replacement experience dramatic knee pain relief. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, more than 600,000 knee replacements are performed each year in the United States, making it one of the most common procedures performed in the United States.3

Knee with advanced osteoarthritis on the inside (medial) and outside (lateral) compartments, likely a total knee replacement candidate.

Total knee implant.

Total knee implant in final position.

  1. Borus, Todd, Thornhill, Thomas, "Perspective on Modern Orthopedics: Unicompartmental Knee Arthroplasty", J Am Acad Orthop Surg, Vol 16, No 1, January 2008
  2. Hall et al., "Unicompartmental Knee Arthroplasty (Alias Uni-Knee): An Overview With Nursing Implications," Orthopaedic Nursing, 2004; 23(3): 163-171.
  3. Arthritis of The Knee, American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons,, Accessed 9.5.16

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