Michigan Knee Institute

Minimally Invasive Knee Replacement Surgery

Total knee replacement is a very successful surgical treatment for knee arthritis. Minimally invasive knee replacement surgical techniques lessen tissue trauma and improve patient outcomes. This minimally invasive approach involves much smaller incisions than the usual 10-12 inch incisions used in the traditional knee replacement. It spares the quadriceps muscle and tendon, which controls the knee’s bending, from being cut to access the knee joint.

The smaller incisions with minimally invasive surgery mean fewer tissue cuts resulting in quicker healing and recovery. The potential advantages of minimally invasive joint replacement surgery are:

  • Minimal surgical dissection
  • Shorter recovery period
  • Shorter hospital stay
  • Reduced post-operative pain

Minimally invasive surgery for knee replacement involves using smaller incisions that are only 4 to 6 inches in length compared to the 10-12inch long incision used in the traditional procedure.

  • Surgery is performed under sterile conditions in the operating room under spinal or general anesthesia. 
  • You will be lying on your back on the operating table with a tourniquet applied to your upper thigh to reduce blood loss. 
  • Your surgeon will then make an incision along the affected knee to expose the knee joint. The surgeon first focuses on the femur (thighbone). 
  • The damaged portions of the femur are cut at the appropriate angles using specialized tools. Then the femoral component is attached to the end of the femur with or without bone cement. 
  • The next step involves removing the damaged area of the tibia (shinbone) and the cartilage, which allows for a smooth surface to attach implants. The tibial component is then secured to the end of the bone using bone cement or screws. 
  • Your surgeon will place a plastic piece called an articular surface between these implants to ensure a smooth gliding movement. This plastic insert acts similarly to the original articular cartilage. It helps in supporting your body weight and allows the femur bone to move over the tibia. 
  • The femur and the tibia bone, with their new components, form the new knee joint and ensure that the patella (knee cap) glides smoothly over the new artificial knee. Its rear surface is prepared to receive a plastic component. With all its new components in place, the knee joint is examined through its range of motion. The entire joint will be irrigated or cleaned out with a sterile saline solution, and excess cement removed. 
  • The incision is then closed and drains inserted—a surgical dressing or bandage placed over the incision.
  • With less tissue damage around the knee during the minimally invasive surgery, you can expect a shorter hospital stay, faster recovery, and avoid an unsightly smaller surgical scar.