Purpose: To evaluate preoperative soft tissue balance for total knee arthroplasty (TKA), varus/valgus stress radiographs has been used in previous studies. While the joint line of femur and tibia is almost parallel in healthy and postoperative knees, osteoarthritis (OA) knees exhibit articular cartilage wear that causes the joint line tilting even in a non-stress condition. Therefore, the exact angle of the joint line might mislead to understand the joint laxity in OA knees. The purpose of this study was to evaluate soft tissue balance in varus OA knees using preoperative stress radiographs under three different constant loads, taking the articular cartilage wear into consideration. Methods: One hundred and eighteen varus-deformed OA knees in 102 patients were investigated before primary TKA. Preoperative knee radiographs were obtained in the anteroposterior view with no stress (defined as the neutral condition) and with varus and valgus stresses (5, 10, and 15 kg) in extension. Two different types of joint line angle (JLA), the absolute JLA (an exact angle of joint line) and the relative JLA (the absolute JLA minus the JLA in the neutral condition), were compared for the same load with the paired t test. Results: The absolute JLA was 7.9 ± 1.2°/− 1.5 ± 2.2° under varus/valgus 15 kg stress, 6.7 ± 2.4°/− 0.3 ± 2.1° under varus/valgus 10 kg stress, and 4.7 ± 2.4°/1.1 ± 2.2° under varus/valgus 5 kg stress. Significant differences in the numerical values of the absolute JLA were observed between varus and valgus stresses for each load. The neutral JLA was 3.2 ± 2.0°. The relative JLA was 4.8 ± 2.1°/− 4.7 ± 1.8° under varus/valgus 15 kg stress, 3.5 ± 2.0°/− 3.5 ± 1.8° under varus/valgus 10 kg stress, and 1.5 ± 1.9°/− 2.1 ± 1.8° under varus/valgus 5 kg stress. No significant differences in the numerical values of the relative JLA were observed between varus and valgus stresses for each load. Conclusions: Consideration of cartilage wear allowed knee laxity to be evaluated more precisely in this study than in previous reports. It was shown that medial soft tissue contracture did not always exist, even in varus OA knees. Regarding clinical relevance, surgeons should be aware that underestimating medial soft tissue laxity due to reliance on the absolute JLA might lead to excessive medial tissue release and result in postoperative instability and lower patient satisfaction. Level of evidence: IV.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Orthopedics and Sports Medicine