Faster partial knee replacement recovery is often touted as the rationale for why someone would want to replace only half their knee versus a total knee replacement. However, the research of the last few years hasn’t been kind to other minimally invasive knee replacement options like hip resurfacing. Will partial knee replacement problems also surface? First, the concept of a partial knee is that only one part of the knee is replaced, usually the inside or the outside compartment. Just googling “partial knee replacement” pops up a huge list of paid advertising by local hospitals hawking that this technology is the best solution for young and active patients, but is this supported by the research? Not really.
I first noticed an issue when this paper popped up in my daily search of the U.S. National Library of Medicine. A high volume knee replacement surgeons in St. Louis reported that out of 83 partial knee replacement surgeries, 11 of the prostheses had failed early. He concluded, “Based on these findings, including a high failure rate of the Oxford knee implant and the absence of any discernible learning curve effect, the principal investigator no longer uses this implant.” Ouch! So I looked deeper. This recent paper demonstrated that for some reason, patients were losing bone around this partial knee replacement device. This European paper states that younger patients (under 60 years old) had a much higher rate (more than double the risk) of wearing out the device early (needing a revision surgery). In addition, while the commercials for these devices tout them as long lasting in active patients, only 85% of them lasted 5 years!
The upshot? There is no free knee replacement lunch. All of these devices have issues. While there may be a faster recovery with a partial knee replacement, younger patients tear through these devices much quicker and they are not holding up well in all patients with only 85% of them lasting 5 years. I think when most patients get these devices, they believe that they’re good for 10-15 years about 100% of the time, this isn’t the case. So if you’re under 60 and active, despite the commercials showing younger active people, this may not be the technology for you.