Flexion Instability After Primary Posterior Cruciate Retaining Total Knee Arthroplasty

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Abstract

Between 1990 and 1995, 25 painful primary posterior cruciate ligament retaining total knee arthroplasties were revised for flexion instability. These patients shared typical clinical presentations that included a sense of instability without frank giving way, recurrent knee joint effusion, soft tissue tenderness involving the pes anserine tendons and the retinacular tissue, posterior instability of 2+ or 3+ with a posterior drawer or a posterior sag sign at 90° flexion, and above average motion of their total knee arthroplasty. The primary total knee arthroplasty was performed for osteoarthritis in 23 patients and rheumatoid arthritis in two patients. There were 13 male and 12 female patients and their mean age was 65 years (range, 35-77 years). Before the revision operation, Knee Society knee scores averaged 45 points (range, 17-68 points) and function scores averaged 42 points (range, 0-60 points). Twenty-two of the knee replacements were revised to posterior stabilized implants and three underwent tibial polyethylene liner exchange only. Nineteen of the 22 knee replacements revised to a posterior stabilized implant were improved markedly after the revision surgery. Only one of three knee replacements that underwent tibial polyethylene exchange was improved. After the revision for flexion instability, Knee Society knee scores averaged 90 points (range, 82-99 points) and function scores averaged 75 points (range, 45-100 points) for the 20 knees with a successful outcome. This study suggests that flexion instability can be a cause of persistent pain and functional impairment after posterior cruciate ligament retaining total knee arthroplasty. A revision operation that focuses on balancing the flexion and extension spaces, in conjunction with a posterior stabilized knee implant, seems to be a reliable treatment for symptomatic flexion instability after posterior cruciate retaining total knee arthroplasty.

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