Depending on the condition of your affected knee, it’s possible to get a total or partial knee replacement surgery. You could also have surgery on both knees at the same time.

Knee replacement surgery may be a treatment option if your knee doesn’t respond to other treatments, such as lifestyle changes and medications.

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), knee surgery may help:

  • relieve symptoms, such as pain and stiffness
  • increase knee mobility, function, and range of motion
  • increase quality of life

Keep reading to learn more about the different types of knee replacement surgeries.

The traditional method for repairing a damaged knee is a total knee replacement surgery (TKR).

Every year, nearly 700,000 TKR surgeries are performed, and 9 in 10 people who undergo TKR experience a dramatic reduction in knee pain and benefit from improved mobility and movement.

During TKR, an orthopedic surgeon removes the surface of the damaged cartilage and bones in the affected knee and replaces the knee with an artificial implant.

Learn more about the step-by-step process of TKR surgery.

TKR implant variations

During an orthopedic evaluation for TKR, a surgeon will discuss the best type of knee implant for you.

This will usually depend on the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), which is a large ligament in the back of the knee that provides support when the knee bends.

There are two types of knee implant designs:

  • Posterior-stabilized: If the PCL can’t support an artificial knee, a surgeon will remove it during TKR. In its place, special implant components (a cam and post) are used to stabilize the knee and provide flexion.
  • Cruciate-retaining: If the PCL can support an artificial knee, a surgeon may leave the PCL in place. The artificial joint typically has a groove in it to accommodate and protect the ligament, allowing it to continue providing knee stability.

Learn more about the different types, designs, and functions of knee implants.

Partial knee replacement (PKR), sometimes referred to as a unicompartmental knee replacement, is when only part of the knee is replaced to help preserve as much original healthy bone and soft tissue as possible.

You may be able to get PKR if osteoarthritis affects only one compartment of the knee, of which there are three:

  • medial compartment, located on the inside of the knee
  • lateral compartment, located on the outside of the knee
  • patella femoral compartment, located on the front of the knee between the thighbone and kneecap

During PKR, a surgeon will replace the affected bone and cartilage with metal and plastic components.

Are there benefits of PKR over TKR surgery?

PKRs may be more suitable if you lead an active lifestyle.

According to the AAOS, PKR surgery may have a few advantages over TKR, including:

  • shorter hospital stay
  • faster recovery and rehabilitation period
  • less pain following surgery
  • less trauma and blood loss
  • better knee mobility
  • more “natural” feeling in the knee

That said, there are a few things to consider before getting PKR:

  • There’s less assurance that PKR will reduce or eliminate the underlying pain.
  • There’s a greater risk of TKR revision surgery because the preserved bone is still susceptible to osteoarthritis.
  • If you eventually need to convert from a PKR to a TKR, your TKR may not have as good of an outcome as if you initially had a TKR.

Learn more about the procedure, costs, and risk factors of PKR surgery.

Bilateral knee surgery (BKS), also known as double knee surgery, is when you get knee surgery on both knees during the same operation.

The AAOS suggests that BKS may be better if both your knees are affected by osteoarthritis because it may be more cost-effective and require fewer hospital visits.

That said, it’s important to note there’s an increased risk of serious complications if you have BKS, such as:

As such, the AAOS doesn’t recommend BKS if you have a risk of developing heart or lung complications.

Learn more about BKS surgery.

Before your knee surgery, a healthcare professional will discuss the several surgical approaches that may best suit your needs.

Each approach may involve different surgical techniques and devices, as well as recovery periods. The two most common surgical approaches include:

  • Traditional surgery: A surgeon makes an 8- to 10-inch incision along the front of the knee to resurface the knee. The surgical technique may involve cutting into the quadriceps tendon to turn the kneecap over and expose the arthritic joint.
  • Minimally invasive surgery (MIS): MIS involves a 4- to 6-inch incision to reduce tissue trauma, pain, and blood loss. Here, the kneecap is pushed to the side rather than being turned over, resulting in less trauma to the quadriceps muscle and quicker recovery compared with traditional surgery.

In some cases, it’s possible to experience complications from TKR and PKR, including:

  • infections
  • blood clots
  • nerve damage
  • continued knee pain and instability
  • implant loosening or failures
  • revision surgery

Learn more about the potential risks and complications and the statistical outcomes of knee surgery.

Research suggests approximately 82% of TKRs and 69% of PKRs are still functioning well after 25 years.

It’s important to set proper expectations and to avoid high impact activities that could damage your new knee.

Knee surgery may require an extended rehabilitation program and home planning to accommodate the recovery period. You should plan on using assistive devices like a walker, crutches, or a cane immediately after surgery.

You’ll most likely work with a physical therapist who can help develop a rehabilitation exercise regimen for you. This may include a combination of stretching, balancing, and muscle-strengthening exercises.

Learn more about what to expect after knee surgery and the recovery timeline.

What is the best type of knee replacement?

The best type of knee replacement will depend on the damage in the affected knee. For example, if only one area is affected, partial knee surgery may be the best option. However, if several parts of your knee are affected, total knee surgery may be best.

What is the newest procedure for knee replacement?

Computer-assistive surgery (CAS) is a recent type of knee replacement surgery. CAS involves generating a 3-D computer model of your knee before surgery. During surgery, the computer model may allow a surgeon to balance the ligaments with more precision to make the knee feel more natural. This may also reduce wear and increase the longevity of the new joint.

What is the most common knee replacement surgery?

The most common knee replacement surgery is total knee replacement.

Knee surgery may help improve mobility, reduce pain, and increase your quality of life if you’re living with knee osteoarthritis.

Speak with a healthcare professional about your options. They could help you choose the best type of knee surgery for your specific needs or offer alternatives to knee surgery.