What Are The Different Types of Knee Surgery?

Doctors working on different types of knee sugery.

Knee pain keeping you from enjoying the activities you love? Lucky for you, there are many different types of knee surgery that can help you feel and move better.
Knee surgery is performed countless times every year in the United States – including nearly a million knee replacements. The most common condition that knee surgery is used to treat is arthritis, but other conditions such as a torn ACL, torn meniscus, and other maladies of the knee are commonplace in any orthopedic surgeon’s office, as well.

The most common cause of knee surgery – Arthritis

Arthritis is the most common reason knee surgery is performed. More than 100 types of arthritis exist, but osteoarthritis is the one that most often brings patients to the surgeon’s table. Osteoarthritis is known as “wear and tear” arthritis, where the cartilage that cushions joints wears away, causing pain, swelling, and stiffness.

Most common types of surgery for knee arthritis

If your knee arthritis is at the point where surgery is the best choice to relieve your pain and improve your range of motion, your doctor may recommend one of the following types of knee surgery:
Total knee replacement – In a total knee replacement, the diseased or damaged part of the knee joint is removed and replaced with artificial parts. The ends of the femur and tibia, as well as the kneecap, are removed and replaced with metal and/or plastic prostheses.

Partial knee replacement – Also called a unicompartmental knee replacement, a partial knee replacement involves resurfacing only part of the knee joint, rather than all the components as seen in a total knee replacement. A unicompartmental knee replacement usually involves a faster healing time and better mobility post-surgery than a total knee replacement.
Knee osteotomy – A knee osteotomy is a surgery in which a wedge of bone is either added to or removed from the tibia or femur to redistribute weight off of the diseased or damaged portion of the knee joint. Osteotomy is often recommended when only part of the knee joint is damaged.
Knee arthroscopy – Knee arthroscopy can be used to treat a variety of knee ailments including arthritis. In knee arthroscopy, a tiny camera and miniaturized instruments are inserted into the knee via a very small incision. Knee arthroscopy is preferred over other types of knee surgery because the small incision leads to faster recovery time as well as less scarring, pain, and stiffness after surgery.
Knee cartilage repair – Healthy cartilage is a critical part of a functioning knee joint. When damaged, the cartilage cannot heal on its own because it lacks an adequate blood supply. Knee cartilage repair surgery involves removing rough or damaged cartilage and smoothing the remaining surface. Knee cartilage repair aims to improve the movement of the knee joint and reduce pain and friction.
Knee cartilage regeneration – In knee cartilage regeneration, a surgeon makes small cuts on the bone underneath the cartilage to encourage the growth of new cartilage using the blood from the bone itself.

When should I have knee surgery for arthritis?

With so many other treatments for arthritis available, knee surgery for arthritis is often a patient’s last resort. But in certain circumstances, surgery is the best choice for long-term relief of arthritis pain and stiffness. You may want to consider knee surgery for arthritis if you:

  • Are experiencing severe pain or loss of quality of life
  • Non-surgical treatments for arthritis in the knee are not effective, such as pain medications, steroid injections, and physical therapy.
  • Knee pain is keeping you up at night and is not well managed with other methods
  • Your knee is deformed by arthritis
  • You have degeneration of the knee joint

Types of knee surgery for meniscus repair

Another common type of knee surgery is meniscus repair. A meniscus is a C-shaped piece of cartilage that acts as a cushion between the thigh bone and the shin bone in the knee joint. You have two menisci in each knee, one in the front and one in the back. Meniscus injuries are often a result of playing sports when the knee is forcefully twisted.
There are several different meniscus surgeries available to help you feel better if you’ve torn or damaged your meniscus.
Meniscectomy – In a meniscectomy, part of the cartilage is removed from the knee joint.
Meniscus repair – Meniscus repair can restore knee movement for knees with a torn or damaged meniscus. Recovery time for a meniscus repair is often long, as it takes time for the meniscus to heal because of its lack of blood supply.
Meniscus transplant – A damaged meniscus may be replaced with one from a donor.

Other types of knee surgery

There are many other types of knee surgeries that are indicated for conditions other than arthritis or a torn or damaged meniscus. Here are some of the other types of knee surgery that your doctor may recommend for your knee pain or mobility issues.
Lateral release – The kneecap is meant to move up and down in a groove of cartilage at the end of the femur. If the kneecap is pulled out of position, movement can be very painful. Lateral release loosens the ligaments that are pulling the kneecap out of position.
ACL repair – The anterior cruciate ligament is one of the four main ligaments of the knee. ACL repair occurs when this critical ligament is torn or damaged, often from sports injuries. Symptoms of an ACL include pain and a feeling of weakness in the knee joint.
Patellar and Quadriceps Tendon repair – The patellar and quadriceps tendons are located on the front of the knee and can cause pain, loss of strength, and the inability to straighten the leg when they become damaged. These repair surgeries help to heal the tendon and restore the healthy function of the knee.

Considering knee surgery in Tennessee?

Tennessee Orthopaedic Alliance helps athletes and non-athletes all over East Tennessee regain the use of their knee with knee surgery. With offices all over East Tennessee, including Knoxville, Oak Ridge, Sevierville, and Lenoir City, our board-certified orthopedic surgeons are right nearby, so you can get the knee surgery you need close to home. Contact us to schedule your consultation.

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