published Thursday, January 9th, 2014

Ask a doctor: How can I tell if I need a knee replacement, and how do I know if I need a total or partial?

By Dr. Matt Bernard

Q: How can I tell if I need a knee replacement, and how do I know if I need a total or partial?

A: A knee replacement is one tool at our disposal to treat knee arthritis. When a person has failed the non-operative measures — weight loss, NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), activity modification, bracing and injections — it is reasonable to have a conversation with your doctor on the relative risks and benefits of knee replacement and how they pertain to you. A knee replacement can treat the arthritis, or loss of the protective cartilage layer overlying the bone in the joint, by capping the bone with a new metal and plastic weight-bearing surface. You are a candidate for a partial knee replacement if cartilage loss is confined to only one part of your knee and symptoms are isolated to that same compartment. If your knee pain is limiting your activities, you should seek treatment. There are many nonoperative and operative treatments to restore a more normal level of function.

— Dr. Matt Bernard, Center for Sports Medicine & Orthopaedics; member, Chattanooga-Hamilton County Medical Society

Readers: To submit a health-related question for a medical doctor, email it to Clint Cooper at See this space each week for answers.

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