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Partial knee replacements growing in popularity, providing a more “natural” knee feeling Print E-mail

If you’re a candidate for a knee replacement surgery, either due to painful arthritis or injury, a newer procedure called the partial knee replacement may be a great option in alleviating pain while retaining a more “natural” feel and function to your knee.

Among the 750,000 joint replacement procedures done annually in the U.S., knee replacements make up more than half, around 400,000. The majority are total knee replacements, also called total knee arthroplasty. Total knee arthroplasty demand is expected to increase in the U.S. by 600% over the next 10 years.

If you’re suffering with arthritis, we typically begin with more conservative treatment approaches, including activity modification, anti-inflammatory medication, physical therapy and even cortisone injections.

When a joint replacement is the best option, about 20 to 30 percent of you may be candidates for the partial knee replacement, determined by a special X-ray that can be performed in most orthopaedic offices.

Partial knee replacements have been performed in the U.S. only in the last 10 years, with significant benefits – less surgical pain, a quicker recovery, and results compare favorably to a total knee replacement. However, make sure that your orthopaedic surgeon is experienced with this approach – many aren’t. Within Santa Cruz County, for instance, Dr. Abidi and I are among the few performing partial knee replacements.


To be a candidate for a partial knee replacement, your arthritis must be localized to the medial compartments in the knee (the left side of your right knee and vice-versa), or the lateral compartments (i.e., the right side of the right knee). You must also have an intact anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). The surgery is minimally invasive where a smaller incision with tissue sparing techniques is used, compared to the standard knee replacement.

New studies also support the benefits of partial knee replacements. A current long-term study in Finland shows rapid growth for total knee procedures among younger patients, those under 59.  Partial knee replacements, also reflected in the study, can give comparable results for appropriate patients with less tissue trauma, more flexibility and better extension of the knee. In a National Health Service study in the UK, patients claimed their operative knee felt more like their natural knee compared with total knee replacement—known as “proprioception.” Partial knee replacement also decreased overall costs to the NHS by several hundred million dollars.

Dr. Abidi has been actively involved in raising visibility for the procedure, presenting to the International Congress on Joint Reconstruction on partial knee replacements in 2010. He performs the Conformis® iUNI G2®and iDuo G2® custom partial knee replacements based upon CT scans that are taken of the patient’s limb ahead of surgery. With this new approach, the CT scans map out your overall limb alignment and designs custom cutting guides and prosthetic implants specific to the deformity and limb mal-alignment.

While this technology is also available from MRI-based scans for total knee replacement (without the custom implants), Dr. Abidi expects this CT-scan based technology for custom partial knee replacement to proliferate over the next few years. The FDA is currently evaluating a Conformis® iTotal® knee arthroplasty that spares the ACL and PCL ligaments.


Latest News

Community Talk July 28, 2014 6:30pm

Join Dr. Nicholas Abidi, M.D., Dr. Peter Reynolds, M.D. and  Dr. Christian Heywood, M.D. as they discuss knee and hip pain and the available treatment options.



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