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What is knee replacement?

In knee replacement surgery, the bone surfaces and cartilage that have been damaged are removed and replaced with artificial surfaces, called implants, made of metal and plastic. The procedure is intended to give you restored mobility and reduce painful bone-on-bone contact.

Partial Knee Replacement

Partial knee replacement


Unicompartmental knee replacement

For some people with osteoarthritis, the joint damage is limited to only one portion of their knee. If you experience pain only on one side, or compartment, of your knee, your surgeon may prescribe what is called unicompartmental knee replacement. In this partial knee replacement surgery, only one side of the joint – the diseased portion – is replaced, leaving the healthy portion untouched.


Patella-femoral knee replacement?

If you experience pain under the kneecap, your surgeon may recommend another type of partial knee replacement called patella-femoral knee replacement. This procedure replaces just the diseased portions of your knee, the femur and patella, while preserving the undamaged portion of your knee and your tibia.

Total Knee Replacement

Total knee replacement

When osteoarthritis affects more than one area of the knee, total knee replacement is often used as treatment. In total knee replacement surgery, the surface of the thighbone (femur) is replaced with a contoured metal piece. The surface of the shinbone (tibia) is typically replaced with a flat metal piece and a smooth plastic piece that serves as cartilage. The undersurface of the kneecap may also be replaced with an implant made of plastic or a combination of metal and plastic.


Is it time for knee replacement?

That’s a question you and your doctor will have to answer together. However, when non-surgical treatments aren’t providing enough relief for you to enjoy life the way you’d like, the time may be right to consider knee replacement surgery.

Here are some signs1 to consider when deciding if it may be time for a knee replacement:

  • You have pain that keeps you awake or awakens you at night
  • You have pain that limits activities necessary to go about your daily routine, such as getting up from a chair or climbing stairs
  • You have pain that limits activities that give you pleasure, such as walking for exercise, traveling or shopping
  • You have tried other treatments for a reasonable period of time, and you still have persistent pain


You and your doctor must consider many other factors prior to surgery, including your age, overall health and bone density. The list above can help you understand when you may begin to consider joint replacement surgery. Every surgical procedure has some risks and benefits. Your individual results will depend on personal circumstances. Your doctor will provide post-operative directions. Remember that recovery takes time.


Don’t wait too long for joint replacement surgery

Historically, patients were advised to delay knee replacement surgery as long as possible in order to avoid secondary operations when the artificial joints wore out.

More recently, a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Consensus Panel concluded that total knee replacement is extremely successful, resulting in “rapid and substantial improvement in the patient’s pain, functional status, and overall health-related quality of life in about 90% of patients.”2

When your life is dictated by the limitations caused by your arthritic knee, the time has come to consider joint replacement.

  1. Total Knee Replacement. AAOS.?http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00389
  2. NIH Consensus Statement on Total Knee Replacement. NIH Consens State Sci Statements. 2003;20:1-32.
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To find a doctor near you, click the ‘find-a-doc’ link. For printed information on joint replacement, call 1-800-447-5633.
Talk to your surgeon about whether joint replacement or another treatment is right for you and the risks of the procedure, including the risk of implant wear, loosening or failure, and pain, swelling and infection. Zimmer Biomet does not practice medicine; only a surgeon can answer your questions regarding your individual symptoms, diagnosis and treatment.