Total and unicondylar knee arthroplasty are equivalent treatment options in end-stage spontaneous osteonecrosis of the knee, and the size of the lesion has no influence on the results



The purpose of the present study was to compare total (TKA) and unicondylar (UKA) knee arthroplasty for spontaneous osteonecrosis of the knee (SONK), and to investigate potential correlations to radiographic parameters.


All consecutive patients with a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) proven SONK treated with either TKA or UKA between 2002 and 2018 were analysed. The primary outcomes were postoperative complications and failure rates. Functional assessment included Knee Society Score (KSS), WOMAC Score, and range of motion. A novel three-dimensional measurement method was established to determine the size of the osteonecrotic lesion. All outcome parameters were correlated to the size of the necrotic lesion using Spearman’s rank correlation.


The two treatment groups (34 TKAs, 37 UKAs) did not differ regarding age, body mass index, and ratio of the volume of the necrotic lesion to the volume of the femoral condyle (n.s.). At a mean follow-up of 6.6 years, patients with UKA had better functional outcomes compared to patients with a TKA (WOMAC Score 1.0 vs. 1.6, p = 0.04; KSS pain 86 vs. 83, n.s), with a similar complication rate. No correlation was found between necrotic lesion size and failure rate (n.s.).


UKA is a valuable treatment option for SONK leading to good functional results and a low failure rate. In case of a surgeon's concern regarding implant anchorage, TKA represents an equivalent solution. The MR-tomographic size of the osteonecrotic lesions seems to have no influence on the results.

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Correspondence to A. Flury.

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Ethical approval for this study was obtained from Zurich Cantonal Ethics Comission: KEK 2019–02114.

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Flury, A., Weigelt, L., Camenzind, R.S. et al. Total and unicondylar knee arthroplasty are equivalent treatment options in end-stage spontaneous osteonecrosis of the knee, and the size of the lesion has no influence on the results. Knee Surg Sports Traumatol Arthrosc (2020).

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  • Unicompartmental knee arthroplasty
  • Total knee arthroplasty
  • Osteonecrosis
  • Spontaneous osteonecrosis of the knee
  • Lesion size