Does total knee joint replacement with the soft tissue balancing surgical technique maintain the natural joint line?

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IntroductionThe outcomes of 106 total knee arthroplasties implanted using a soft tissue balancing surgical technique at one surgical centre were used to assess the accuracy maintaining the knee's original joint line (JL). The aim of the study was to determine whether there is a shift of the presumed joint line after surgery.Materials and methodsPreoperative and post-operative radiographs were compared to determine any changes in the articulation height. The preoperative distance of the fibular head to the natural joint line was measured and compared with the post-operative measurement of the fibular head to the femoral articulation line (measured on the radiograph and defined as Rxmm). Based on the actual medio-lateral dimension of the tibial metal back, the measured difference (RXmm) could be converted into true distances (in mm). The Blackburn-Peel index was assessed as an additional outcome prior to and following surgery.ResultsPreoperatively, the average distance from the fibular head to the joint line was 15.1 Rxmm (SD 4.3) while the post-surgical distance was 15.5 Rxmm (SD 5.6). The average deviation of the post-surgical JL in relation to the original JL amounted to 0.4 Rxmm (SD 3.7). The average deviation of the joint line converted into the true distance was −0.3 mm (with a range of −5.9 mm in distal direction to + 8.3 mm in the proximal direction). Valgus position appeared to generate rather a shift in proximal direction whereas varus deformity favours a shift in distal direction. Seven patients exhibited a deviation of more than 5 mm in either the distal or proximal direction. All of the patients of this subgroup had a preoperative anatomical abnormality including a severe malalignment, serious bone destruction or had previously undergone a high tibial osteotomy.ConclusionAn exact reconstruction of the natural Joint Line is achievable when using the described soft tissue balancing surgical technique with the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) retaining prosthesis design used in this series.

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