There are surgical treatments other than a total knee replacement to alleviate pain and regain mobility in a damaged knee. Torn cartilage and other matter can be removed from the knee during arthroscopic surgery. Another procedure, an osteotomy, realigns the knee by cutting bone off either the femur or tibia.
A less common procedure, the unicompartmental knee arthroplasty, has shown promise in treating knee joints with arthritic damage on only one side of the knee. For instance, if you had arthritis damage on the left side of your knee, only the damaged portions on the left side would be removed, reshaped and replaced by metal and polyethylene replicas. About 6 percent of patients with arthritic knees are candidates for unidepartmental knee arthroplasty [source: Port]. If the untreated side eventually becomes arthritic, the patient can still have a total knee replacement.
One relatively new technique that requires less tissue damage during the procedure is called a minimally invasive knee replacement. Although the same type of implant is inserted, the surgeon works with a smaller incision. There is less scarring with this method and less overall tissue damage, resulting in a shorter hospital stay. The procedure is difficult to perform and requires different tools and instruments to operate on the joint. Depending on the joint damage and other factors such as obesity, a minimally invasive knee replacement may not be the ideal choice for some patients.
If you have hip troubles that may require a hip replacement, you'll want to get your hip taken care of before your knee. Why can't you do both at once? Because in order to properly exercise and rehab your new knee, you will need mobility in your hip.
Not all knees are built alike, nor is all knee damage similar. An orthopedic surgeon can help steer you toward the right treatment for your specific knee situation.