As more people elect to go under the knife for total knee replacements, the number of surgical options available to patients has grown.
While the majority of total knee replacements are still performed using a traditional approach, some surgeons are now promoting minimally invasive knee replacements, which use smaller incisions. Advocates of this type of surgery say it allows for faster recovery and shorter hospital stays. But evidence suggests that the higher risk of complications from minimally invasive surgery may far outweigh any potential benefits.
Traditional Total Knee Replacement vs. Minimally Invasive Knee Replacement
Traditional total knee replacement entails cutting into the quadriceps tendon in order to move the kneecap out of the way to access the arthritic joint. Newer minimally invasive knee replacements spare the quadriceps tendon by making an incision in a muscle in the quadriceps.
Those who support minimally invasive replacements argue that when this muscle and tendon group (the quadriceps) is cut out, as in traditional knee replacement, the repair and recovery may require a longer hospital stay and physical therapy.
Otherwise, there is no difference between minimally invasive and traditional knee replacement in terms of physical therapy, pain, walking speed and other measures of function during the recovery period.
Risks of Minimally Invasive Knee Replacement Surgery
The minimally invasive approach may not be appropriate for heavy set or very muscular patients, those with severe knee instability or deformity, or those requiring a more complex replacement.
Medical literature shows that complications can be higher and the procedure may take longer, which is detrimental for the final outcome of the surgery. It also requires more training and has a significant learning curve. Anyone considering minimally invasive knee replacement should choose a surgeon who performs a high-volume of knee replacements.
While the minimally invasive approach is a good alternative in the hands of an experienced surgeon, you should not limit your options to minimally invasive surgery if you have a good surgeon who performs the traditional approach.
How to Decide Which Surgery Is Right for You
Get opinions from a surgeon who does minimally invasive total knee replacement and one who does only traditional surgery, and weigh the pros and cons of each. Before you make a final decision on your knee replacement surgeon here’s some final advice:
- Make sure you have exhausted all other, conservative treatment options (injections and physical therapy for instance).
- Choose only a surgeon who’s well trained and experienced with the type of procedure you choose.
- Work with your doctor to lose weight to lessen the strain placed on your knees.
- Stay as active as possible before your operation. Getting fit before surgery can boost your outcome and get you back on your feet sooner rather than later!
At VOSS, we have some of the area’s top orthopaedic surgeons specializing in hip and knee replacements. Our specialists see patients from all over Hampton Roads, including Chesapeake, Portsmouth, Suffolk, and Norfolk. To schedule an appointment with any of our surgeons, please call 757.673.5680.