Purpose: In total knee arthroplasty (TKA), a high soft-tissue tension in extension at the time of operation would cause a post-operative flexion contracture. However, how tight the extension gap should be during surgery to avoid a post-operative flexion contracture remains unclear. The hypothesis is that some laxity in the intraoperative extension gap is necessary to avoid the post-operative flexion contracture.
Methods: A posterior-stabilized TKA was performed for 75 osteoarthritic knees with a varus deformity. The intraoperative extension gap was measured using a tensor device that provides the gap length and the angle between the femoral component and the tibial cut surface. The medial component gap was defined as the gap calculated by subtracting the selected thickness of the tibial component, including the polyethylene liner, from the extension gap at the medial side. Then, the patients were divided into three groups according to the medial component gap, and post-operative extension angle measured 1 year after the surgery was compared between each groups.
Results: One year post-operatively, a flexion contracture of more than 5° was found in 0/34 patients when the medial component gap was more than 1 mm, in 2/26 (8 %) patients when the gap was between 0 and 1 mm, and in 3/15 (20 %) patients when the gap was <0 mm. Three factors were associated significantly with the post-operative extension angle: age, preoperative extension angle, and medial component gap.
Conclusion: The intraoperative extension gap is related to the post-operative extension angle. Surgeons should leave more than 1-mm laxity after the implantation to avoid the post-operative flexion contracture. As a clinical relevance, this study clarified the optimal extension gap to avoid the post-operative flexion contracture.
Level of evidence: Prospective comparative study, Level II.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Orthopedics and Sports Medicine