It has long been a topic of some debate in the world of sports medicine whether partial orthopedic knee replacement surgery is safer than a complete knee replacement procedure.
Now a new epidemiological study published in the Lancet found that complications were far more common in total knee replacements than in partial procedures:
Researchers at the University of Oxford analyzed the outcomes of over 100,000 knee replacement surgeries and found that – while the risk of serious complications is small — TKR patients are twice as likely to have a blood clot, heart attack or deep infection, three times as likely to have a stroke, and four times as likely to need blood transfusions, compared to those having partial knee replacement.
It is an interesting finding that will almost certainly inspire more detailed research, including, one hopes, a randomized study which should yield better data. But this remains a strong signal that doing less can be more effective than doing more, especially in cases where the orthopedic injury doesn’t necessitate a full replacement. The advantage of consulting with a sports medicine orthopedic surgeon is that we can treat the particular knee condition with an appropriate intervention (i.e., we have more tricks in our bags than simply doing a total knee replacement on every patient that walks in the door).