Arthritic knee

The cartilage lining is thinner than normal or completely absent. The degree of cartilage damage and inflammation varies with the type and stage of arthritis. The capsule of the arthritic knee is swollen. The joint space is narrowed and irregular in outline; this can be seen in an X-ray image. Bone spurs or excessive bone can also build up around the edges of the joint. The combinations of these factors make the arthritic knee stiff and limit activities due to pain or fatigue.


Evaluating the source of knee pain is critical in determining your treatment options for relief of the pain. Knee pain should be evaluated by an Orthopedic specialist for proper diagnosis and treatment. Your physician will perform the following:

  • Medical History
  • Physical Examination

Depending on what the history and exam reveal, your doctor may order medical tests to determine the cause of your knee pain and to rule out other conditions. 

Diagnostic Studies may include:

  • X-rays: X-rays are a form of electromagnetic radiation that is used to take pictures of bones. An X-ray can reveal if osteoarthritis from degenerative changes is causing your knee pain. The diagnosis of osteoarthritis is made on history, physical examination & X-rays.

There is no blood test to diagnose Osteoarthritis (wear & tear arthritis).

Conservative Treatment Options

Conservative treatment options refer to management of the problem without surgery. Some conservative treatment measures for knee osteoarthritis include:

  • Activity Modification and Limitations
  • Weight Reduction
  • Anti-inflammatory Medications
  • Physical Therapy
  • Orthotics such as canes, braces, or insoles
  • Injection of steroid and analgesic into the knee joint

Bicompartmental Knee Resurfacing surgery may be recommended by your surgeon if you have early to moderate osteoarthritis in 2 of the 3 knee compartments and you have not obtained adequate relief with conservative treatment options.

Traditionally, a patient with two compartments of knee arthritis would undergo a Total Knee Replacement surgery. Bicompartmental Knee Resurfacing is a newer less invasive surgical option that preserves the knee parts not damaged by arthritis as well as the stabilizing anterior and posterior cruciate ligaments, ACL and PCL. This less invasive bone and ligament preserving surgery is especially useful for younger, more active patients as the implant placed more closely mimics actual knee mechanics than does a total knee surgery.

The implants used in the partial knee resurfacing surgery are customized to the patient’s anatomy based upon CT scans of the patient’s knee. A surgical Robotic Arm assists the surgeon with preoperative planning and intraoperative component placement, positioning, and alignment. Another advantage of Bicompartmental Knee Resurfacing surgery is that it will not alter the ability of the patient to eventually move to a Total Knee Replacement in the future should that become necessary. 

Bicompartmental Knee Resurfacing surgery is performed in an operating room under sterile conditions with the patient under general anesthesia or spinal anesthesia with sedation. It may be performed on an outpatient basis as day surgery, or inpatient basis with a 1-3-day hospital stay. 

The surgeon makes a small incision over the affected area of the knee to expose the knee joint. The length is about half of what is required with total knee replacement surgery.

With the assistance of the robotic arm, the surgeon removes the arthritic damage to the bony surfaces of the femur and tibia in the medial or lateral compartments, depending on which one is affected by arthritis. The artificial components are inserted into the new prepared area and bone cement is used to fix it in place. The patellofemoral compartment is then prepared by removing the damaged part of the patella and trochlea, the groove at the end of the femur.

The new components are fixed in place with the use of bone cement. With the new components in place, the knee is taken through a range of movements. The muscles are then approximated and the incision closed and covered with a sterile dressing.

Post-Operative Recovery

Common Post-Operative guidelines include:

  • You will be taken to the recovery room and monitored for any complications.
  • You will be given pain medication or a PCA (patient controlled analgesia) machine to keep you comfortable. 
  • Swelling is normal after knee surgery. Ice, compression, and elevation of the knee will be used to minimize swelling and pain.
  • You will be given specific instructions regarding activity. Usually there are few activity restrictions.
  • You will be referred to a rehabilitation program for exercise and strengthening.
  • Eating a healthy diet and not smoking will promote healing.

Risks and Complications

As with any major surgery there are potential risks involved. Specific Complications related to Bicompartmental Knee Resurfacing surgery include:

  • Infection: Infection can occur with any operation. In the knee this can be superficial or deep. Infection rates are approximately 1%. If it occurs it can be treated with antibiotics but may require further surgery.
  • Deep Vein Thrombosis: DVT are blood clots that can form in the calf muscles and travel to the lung (Pulmonary embolism). These can occasionally be serious and even life threatening. If you get calf pain or shortness of breath at any stage, you should notify your surgeon.
  • Ligament injuries: There are several ligaments surrounding the knee. These ligaments can be torn during surgery or break or stretch out any time afterwards. Surgery may be required to correct this problem.
  • Injury to blood vessels or nerves: Also rare but can lead to weakness and loss of sensation in part of the leg. Damage to blood vessels may require further surgery if bleeding is ongoing.
  • Arthrofibrosis: This is the development of thick, fibrous material around the joint that often occurs after joint injury or surgery and can lead to joint stiffness and decreased movement.
  • Wear: The components eventually wear out over time, usually 10 to 15 years, and may need to be changed.
  • Dislocation: An extremely rare condition where the ends of the knee joint lose contact with each other or the plastic insert can lose contact with the tibia (shinbone) or the femur (thigh bone).
  • Fractures or breaks: Can occur during surgery or afterwards if you fall. To fix these, you may require surgery.

Partial Knee Resurfacing

Partial knee replacement is an alternative to total knee replacement in patients with arthritis on only one side of the knee. Partial knee replacement is a surgical procedure which involves resurfacing and replacement of only the diseased surface of the joint instead of the entire joint.

The knee has three compartments, the medial (inside), the lateral (outside) and the patellofemoral (kneecap) compartment. Partial knee resurfacing may be an option depending on the affected surface. During the procedure, your surgeon removes only the damaged area of the bone in the affected knee and fits the implant to that bone.

Unicompartmental knee resurfacing is a procedure that resurfaces the affected inner aspect of the femur and tibia. During the procedure, a small incision is made along the affected knee exposing the knee joint. The damaged portion of the meniscus along with a part of bone may be removed to create space for the new plastic component. The plastic component is fixed into the new created area. Now the damaged part of the femur along with little bone is removed to create room for the new femoral component. The new metal component is fixed with cement. After fixing the femoral and tibial components the knee is taken through a range of movements.

Patellofemoral knee resurfacing is a procedure that resurfaces only the worn-out kneecap or patella and the groove in the thighbone (trochlea). The procedure is performed using an arthroscope, a small fiber-optic instrument with a tiny lens and a video camera. Through the tiny incisions, the damaged part of the patella and trochlea will be removed to create room for the artificial component. The new component is fixed in place with the use of bone cement and the knee is taken through a range of movements.

Advantages of partial knee resurfacing include:

  • Minimal incisions
  • Minimal hospitalization
  • Reduced blood loss
  • Less scarring
  • Quick recovery
  • Less post-operative pain

Although partial knee resurfacing is an effective method in repairing the damaged part of the knee, it is associated with certain complications such as infection, blood clot formation, damage to nerves and blood vessels, wear, dislocation, and ligament injuries.


  • The American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery
  • American Medical Association
  • Medical Society of the State of New York (MSSNY)
  • CareMount Medical
  • Northern Westchester Hospital

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