Partial knee replacements would benefit patients and save the NHS money, experts claim
Nearly 100,000 knee replacements were carried out in 2016, but fewer than one in 10 patients have a partial replacement, a procedure where only the affected part of the knee joint is replaced.
Researchers from the University of Oxford said about half of patients needing a knee replacement could be suitable for a part replacement.
The procedure is less invasive, allows for a faster recovery, carries less post-operative risks and provides better function.
It is also a cheaper intervention for the NHS, in both the short and long term, they said.
The study saw them analyse data from the National Joint Registry (NJR), where they found that partial replacements are better for patients who have only part of their knee affected by arthritis and could therefore have either a partial or a total replacement.
According to the NJR, of the 98,147 knee replacements undertaken in 2016, only 9% were partial, also known as unicompartmental replacements (UKR).
The research, published in BMJ Open, compared people who had a partial knee replacement with those who had a total knee replacement, but could have had a partial replacement.
They found the use of part replacement varies greatly between different surgeons.
Partial replacements carried out by surgeons using them for a small proportion of knee replacements provide worse outcomes than total replacements.
But partial replacements carried out by surgeons using them for a high proportion of knee replacements provide better outcomes and are cheaper for the NHS than total replacements, they said.
Co-lead researcher Professor David Murray said: "This is an important finding.
"If surgeons aim to use partial knees in a quarter or more of their knee replacements this will substantially improve the results of knee replacement and will save money.
"In addition more partial knee replacements will be done and more patients will benefit from this procedure."
The team, from the university's Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Sciences (NDORMS), said that while partial knee replacements can be better and cheaper for patients over 60, the long-term benefits for those under 60 are less clear compared to those of total knee replacements.
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