Person's finger and pen pointing at films evaluating possible partial joint replacement
Sports / Orthopedic

The Difference Between Total and Partial Joint Replacements

Dec 27 2018
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How to know which joint replacement you need

Have you injured a joint? Do you have a condition that breaks down cartilage, which is strong, thick tissue that protects your joints? You might feel pain, weakness and limited movement when doing everyday things. If you’re not getting better with other treatments, your doctor might suggest a joint replacement. Learn more about the differences between total and partial joint replacements. This helps you understand which one might be the best option for you.

What to expect from joint replacement surgery

Both types of joint replacement surgeries often take place in a hospital. You have anesthesia to put you completely to sleep. The surgery takes a few hours from start to finish. Your doctor removes the damaged bone and cartilage from the joint. They replace it with implants made of metal and strong plastics.

Recovery is a long process. You won’t be able to move the joint fully following the procedure. It gets better over time. Physical therapy helps strengthen your muscles and improve your mobility. While everyone’s recovery is different, you should expect to be pain free a few months after surgery.

Which is better: total or partial joint replacement?

In these procedures, doctors remove a part or all of a joint. They replace it with artificial parts that work the same way as a real joint. In a total joint replacement, your doctor removes the entire joint. In a partial joint replacement, your doctor only removes and replaces that section of the joint that’s damaged or injured.

There’s no better or best option for everyone when it comes to joint replacement. It depends on your unique health situation. There are several factors to consider, such as the joint, extent of the damage and your lifestyle. Your doctor can guide you through your options and help you figure out which one is the best for you.

Benefits of total joint replacement

Total joint replacement is common for conditions that worsen over time. These are the popular option because replacing the entire joint means that it’s less likely to fail again or cause problems in the future. One big benefit of this surgery? The majority of patients report complete relief once they’ve fully recovered.

Who should get a total joint replacement?

The knees and hips are the most common joints to need this operation. Your doctor won’t recommend a total joint replacement surgery as a treatment option until you’ve tried other treatments. People who have conditions, such as arthritis, that get worse over time are good candidates for a total joint replacement. Replacing the joint completely reduces the chances of needing another surgery later on if the condition gets worse.

Benefits of a partial joint replacement

One of the biggest benefits of a partial joint replacement is that it has a much faster recovery time than a total replacement. There are fewer complications and less blood loss. After the surgery, you typically have better range of motion, too. A downside to this surgery is that you might have to have the surgery again in the future. The partial replacements don’t last as long.

Who should get a partial joint replacement?

People who are active and need better range of motion might be good candidates for a partial joint replacement. These are also a good option if you have less damage to the joint. However, fewer people qualify for partial replacements. For example, only an estimated 6% tob10% of patients are good candidates for a partial knee replacement. Total replacement is still the standard treatment for knees. This is usually because the surgery is more complicated.

Doctors also perform total and partial shoulder replacements. Total replacement is more common because surgeons consider it more reliable. Partial replacement can be a better option in some situations, such as if you lead a very active lifestyle or have damage to certain shoulder muscles.

Joint replacement surgeries are options for people suffering from pain, weakness and limited mobility in their joints. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. If you’re ready to discuss joint replacement with a physician, reach out to our team today. We’ll help you learn more about these procedures.


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