Minimally invasive knee replacement is an example of how the medical field is continually evolving and trying to improve outcomes for patients. Though thousands are performed every year, minimally invasive knee replacements are the subject of ongoing research and are not considered standard practice.

In the meantime, patients and doctors must use the knowledge available to make informed choices. The bullet points below summarize much of what we know about the pros and cons of minimally invasive knee replacement surgery.

Advantages of Minimally Invasive Surgery

The advantages of minimally invasive knee replacement surgery include:

  • Less damage to the skin and surrounding soft tissue, including muscles, ligaments and tendons
  • Less blood loss during surgery
  • Less post-operative pain
  • Smaller scar

Some patients also have an accelerated recovery and physical therapy schedule, so they can resume everyday activities sooner than patients who undergo traditional knee replacement surgery.3,4 However, research shows this is not always the case.5,6,7

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Traditionally, another advantage to minimally invasive surgery has been a shorter hospital stay. Patients typically had a hospital stay of 1 to 5 days compared to 3 to 7 days for traditional surgery. However, the lengths of hospital stays are changing for both surgeries. Patients having either surgery may stay in the hospital for only 1 or 2 days or even go home the same day with personalized care.

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Disadvantages of Minimally Invasive Surgery

  • The surgeon has a limited view of the joint; it is a technically demanding surgery that has a steep learning curve for surgeons
  • Possible increased likelihood that knee components may be poorly fit or misaligned
  • Skin and soft tissue can be stretched and torn during surgery
  • This surgery typically takes a longer time for surgeons to perform
  • This newer, less studied surgical procedure may have unknown potential risks

A patient considering minimally invasive surgery should speak with their surgeon about potential advantages and disadvantages in the context of the patient’s knee arthritis, knee anatomy, overall health and lifestyle.

References

  1. Cheng T, Liu T, Zhang G, Peng X, Zhang X. Does minimally invasive surgery improve short-term recovery in total knee arthroplasty?
  2. Alcelik I, Sukeik M, Pollock R, Misra A, Shah P, Armstrong P, Dhebar MI. Comparison of the minimally invasive and standard medial parapatellar approaches for primary total knee arthroplasty..
  3. Stevens-Lapsley JE, Bade MJ, Shulman BC, Kohrt WM, Dayton MR. Minimally invasive total knee arthroplasty improves early knee strength but not functional performance: a randomized controlled trial.

Complete Listing of References

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Written by Vivek Sood, MD
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