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A total knee replacement is somewhat of a misnomer. A more appropriate procedure would be a total knee resurfacing and minimal bone buts are made to remove the degenerative cartilage and replaced with highly engineered metal and plastic. This procedure is reserved for people with long standing knee pain that has become refractory to conservative treatment including activity modifications, anti-inflammatories, possible cortisone injections, and in some cases visco-elastic shots (gel shots/synthetic hyularonic acid).
This is an excellent procedure for patients whose goal is to maintain an active lifestyle, improve function and mobility, and to eliminate pain. Limitations are patient specific but generally include limited high impact activities like running, jogging, high impact recreational sports including basketball and tennis.
Like a Partial Knee, a Total Knee Arthroplasty is now considered minimally invasive as the incision usually measures less than 5 inches long, is muscle sparing, and utilizes new advances in instrumentation to work through smaller operative windows.