Less gap imbalance with restricted kinematic alignment than with mechanically aligned total knee arthroplasty: simulations on 3-D bone models created from CT-scans

Background and purpose — Mechanical alignment techniques for total knee arthroplasty (TKA) introduce significant anatomic alteration and secondary ligament imbalances. We propose a restricted kinematic alignment (rKA) protocol to minimize these issues and improve TKA clinical outcomes.

Patients and methods — rKA tibial and femoral bone resections were simulated on 1,000 knee CT scans from a database of patients undergoing TKA. rKA was defined by the following criteria: independent tibial and femoral cuts within 5° of the bone neutral mechanical axis, with a resulting HKA within 3° of neutral. Imbalances in the extension space, flexion space at 90°, medial compartment and lateral compartment were calculated and compared with measured resection mechanical alignment (MA) results. 2 MA techniques were simulated for rotation using the surgical transepicondylar axis (TEA) and 3° to the posterior condyles (PC).

Results — Extension space imbalances ≥ 3 mm occurred in 33% of TKAs with MA technique versus 8.3% with rKA (p < 0.001). Similarly, more frequent flexion space imbalance ≥ 3mm was created by MA technique (TEA 34% or 3° PC 15%) versus rKA (6.4%, p < 0.001). Using MA with TEA or PC, there were only 49% and 63% of the knees respectively with < 3 mm of imbalance throughout the extension and flexion spaces and medial and lateral compartments versus 92% using rKA (p < 0.001).

Interpretation — significantly fewer imbalances are created using rKA versus MA for TKA. rKA may be the best compromise, by helping the surgeon to preserve native knee ligament balance during TKA and avoid residual instability, whilst keeping the lower limb alignment within a safe range.