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In minimally invasive knee replacement, the surgical procedure is similar, but there is less cutting of the tissue surrounding the knee. The artificial implants used are the same as those used for traditional knee replacement. However, specially designed surgical instruments are used to prepare the femur and tibia and to place the implants properly.
Minimally invasive knee replacement is performed through a shorter incision—4 to 6 inches versus 8 to 10 inches for traditional knee replacement. A smaller incision allows for less tissue disturbance.
In addition to a shorter incision, the technique used to open the knee is less invasive. In general, techniques used in minimally invasive knee replacement are "quadriceps sparing," meaning they avoid trauma to the quadriceps tendon and muscles in the front of the thigh. Other minimally invasive techniques called "midvastus" and "subvastus" make small incisions in the muscle but are also less invasive than traditional knee replacement. Because the techniques used to expose the joint involve less disruption to the muscle, it may lead to less postoperative pain and reduced recovery time.
The hospital stay after minimally invasive surgery is similar in length to the stay after traditional knee replacement surgery--ranging from 1 to 4 days. Physical rehabilitation is a critical component of recovery. Your surgeon or a physical therapist will provide you with specific exercises to help increase your range of motion and restore your strength.