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General Orthopaedics


Current Concepts in Joint Replacement (CCJR) – Spring 2015


Total knee replacement (TKR) is considered the “gold standard” treatment for advanced osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee with good survivorship and functional outcomes. However up to 20% of patients undergoing TKR may have unicompartmental disease only. Treatment options for medial compartment arthritis can include both unicompartmental knee replacements (UKR) and TKR. While some surgeons favor TKR with a proven track record, others prefer UKR due to more normal joint kinematics, better proprioception and better motion. There is also a higher rate of return to sports amongst patients with UKR compared to TKR.

When considering all knee procedures, partial knee replacements account for 7–9%, primary TKRs for 83–88%, and revision knee replacements for 5–8%. Unicompartmental Knee Replacements comprise more than 90% of all partial knee replacement procedures. Proponents of UKR cite as advantages the preservation of normal knee kinematics, lower peri-operative morbidity, blood loss and infection risk compared with TKRs, as well as accelerated patient rehabilitation and recovery. However, partial knee replacements have a higher rate of revision than TKRs. This may be partly because they are inserted in patients with higher expectations, and partly because they are easier to revise. As a result, the volume of UKRs implanted has diminished over time and continues to decline.

We compared patient reported outcomes, satisfaction and perception of normality of the knee post-operatively between UKR and TKR. A single unit and single surgeon series of patients were recruited. Data was collated for 68 well-matched patients with more than 24 months follow-up. UKR was undertaken in patients with isolated medial compartment osteoarthritis; stable ACL and less than grade 3 lateral patellar changes of the Outerbridge classification. TKR was undertaken for the rest. The patients were assessed with validated knee scores including the Total Knee Function Questionnaire (TKFQ) which focuses on recreational and sporting outcomes as well as activities of daily living (ADL). Patient satisfaction and perception of knee normality was measured on a visual analogue scale.

Thirty-four patients with a TKR and 34 patients with a UKR were analyzed. The average ages in the TKR and UKR groups were 69.25 and 67.26 years, respectively. The patients were well-matched for demographics and had equivalent pre-operative morbidities and scores. The UKR group had better WOMAC (p=0.003), SF36 (physical: p<0.001 mental: p=0.25), Oxford knee (p<0.001) and Knee Society scores (p=0.002, function: p<0.001). The UKR group showed better outcomes in the TKFQ including exercise and sport (p= 0.02), movement and lifestyle (p=0.02) and the ADL (p=0.002). There was, however, no difference in patient satisfaction scores (p=0.41) and perception of how normal the knee felt between the two groups (p=0.99).

A UKR procedure confers better functional outcome in terms of recreation and sport compared to TKR procedures. While UKR is an appropriate choice in the elderly yet active patient with unicompartmental knee arthritis, satisfaction is similar to that of patients with a TKR reflecting higher pre-operative expectations. We believe that in appropriate centers, the UKR procedure is associated with excellent outcomes. UKR should have a secure place in the knee arthroplasty armamentarium provided current knowledge regarding patient selection and surgical technique is followed.