Knee Joint Replacement

The primary reason for a knee replacement is advanced osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis causes the cartilage at the end of the knee bones to deteriorate which allows them to rub together causing damage. This is very painful. Also, bone spurs may form in the knee joint causing pain and stiffness. One in five people in the U.S. will develop knee arthritis over their lives.

When to Consider a Knee Replacement

When you experience pain and stiffness with everyday activities that does not improve with medication, it is time to consider a knee replacement. Clinical studies have shown that more than 90% of patients who received an artificial knee found significant pain relief and improved function.

After a complete medical evaluation, the board-certified orthopedic surgeons at Orthopaedic Specialists of North County may recommend several treatments that have been shown to improve knee pain and mobility including:

  • Physical therapy exercises to strengthen knee muscles and improve mobility
  • Weight loss to reduce the load on the knees
  • Steroid Injections or Hyaluronic Acid injections (Viscosupplementation)
  • Knee Bracing

When these approaches fail to improve pain and function, your Orthopedic Specialists North County surgeon will explain your options and answer your questions. The decision to have knee replacement surgery is important and it is recommended that you talk with your family before making a decision.

Who is a Good Candidate?

The best candidates are healthy and undergo knee replacement before advanced joint damage because this will help you recover faster, and get better outcomes. Timing of surgery is important. Don’t wait until your knees completely breakdown and you are disabled, unable to climb stairs, or unable to get out of a chair or walk without aid. Don’t delay knee surgery out of fear. Delay increases the risk of joint deterioration, disability and pain, as well as potential complications from surgery. While knee replacement surgery is complicated, it has been proven to be safe and effective.

It is important to have realistic expectations.

  • Not everyone is a good candidate for knee replacement.
  • Even with normal use the replacement parts will wear out.
  • Excessive activity will speed up this process.
  • You may not be able to return to high impact activities like running, jogging, jumping. But you will be able to walk, hike, swim, and do other low impact activities.
  • Knee replacement surgery is not a guaranty that your pain and disability will completely resolve. Some studies suggest that 20% of people with artificial knees experience discomfort six or more months after knee replacement.

Knee Anatomy

The knee is a complicated joint made of three compartments, held together with ligaments and bone. A patient may develop arthritis in one, two or all three compartments. The medial (inner) compartment is the inside part of the knee. The lateral (outer) compartment is the outside part of the knee. The patellofemoral compartment is the front of the knee between the kneecap and the thigh bone. Most often, it is the inner or medial compartment where disabling arthritis develops.

Knee Replacement Surgery

There are two types of knee replacement surgery:

  1. Total Knee Replacement- all three compartments are removed and replaced with metal or plastic implants
  2. Partial or Unicompartmental (one or two compartment) knee replacement- only the damaged portion of the knee joint is removed and replaced with metal or plastic implants

Total Knee Replacement Surgery

This is a more complicated procedure that takes longer, requires more anesthesia, and an 8-10-inch incision on the front of the knee. The risks are greater, and recovery takes longer.

Partial Knee Replacement

In a partial replacement only the damaged part of the knee is resurfaced. It is easier to perform and leaves most of the knee intact. Just small incisions are needed. It takes less operating time, and less anesthesia. There is less pain, less blood loss and a smaller scar. There is less time spent in the hospital and shorter recovery so you can return to your life sooner than with a total knee replacement.

Knee Replacement Risks

  • Anesthesia
  • Infection
  • Blood clots
  • Bleeding
  • Nerve damage
  • Negative reaction to pain medications including nausea and vomiting
  • Problems with the implants

At Orthopaedic Specialists of North County serving San Diego County, we use image-guided technology to assure accuracy, precision, and safety. This streamlines the surgery for improved outcomes. We understand the apprehension involved in deciding to pursue a knee replacement. We are here to help you.


"The entire team at OSNC is great, very professional and took the time to put me at ease. And I only have praise for the Dr. Erik Stark, a wonderful doctor who never disappoints!" Patient of Dr. Erik Stark
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