Polyethylene Contact Stresses, Articular Congruity, and Knee Alignment

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Increased conformity at the tibiofemoral articulation increases contact area and reduces contact stresses in total knee arthroplasty. Malalignment, however, can increase polyethylene contact stresses. The effect of knee alignment and articular conformity on contact stresses was evaluated in a finite element model. The polyethylene insert and femoral component were modeled in high-and low-conformity conditions. An axial tibial load of 3000 N was applied across the tibiofemoral articulation at different knee positions ranging from 0° to 90° flexion, 0 to 10 mm anteroposterior translation, 0° to 10° axial rotation, and coronal plane angulation (liftoff). Increased conformity significantly reduced contact stresses in neutral alignment (by 44% at 0° flexion and 36% at 60° and 90° flexion). Liftoff significantly increased contact stresses in low-and high-conformity conditions, but to a lesser degree in the high-conformity condition. Malalignment in rotation was most detrimental especially with the high-conformity insert design. Overall, increasing articular conformity reduced stresses when the knee was well-aligned. However, malalignment in axial rotation was detrimental. Mobile-bearing knee designs with increased articular congruity may result in lower contact stresses, especially the rotating-bearing designs that theoretically minimize rotational malalignment.

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