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.1,2 However, research shows this is not always the case.3-5
Read more about Exercise and Physical Therapy for Arthritis
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.
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.