A Prospective Randomized Study to Compare Systemic Emboli Using the Computer-Assisted and Conventional Techniques of Total Knee Arthroplasty

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Conventional total knee arthroplasty is performed with use of an intramedullary alignment guide, which produces elevated intramedullary pressure that can create fat emboli. Total knee arthroplasty performed via computer-assisted surgery does not require an intramedullary femoral rod, raising the question of whether computer-assisted surgery generates less embolic material than conventional total knee arthroplasty. The purpose of this study was to compare the emboli produced in the two techniques.


Fifty-seven patients were randomized into two groups: the computer-assisted surgery group (n = 29) and the conventional total knee arthroplasty group (n = 28). An intramedullary femoral alignment jig was used in the conventional total knee arthroplasty group but not in the computer-assisted surgery group. Intraoperative invasive monitoring was performed with use of transesophageal echocardiography and a pulmonary artery catheter.


The mean embolic score was 6.21 points for the conventional technique group and 5.48 points for the computer-assisted surgery group (p = 0.0161). After tourniquet deflation, fat emboli were observed in the blood of five patients in the conventional surgery group and one patient in the computer-assisted surgery group.


The patients in the computer-assisted surgery group had lower embolic loads compared with the patients in the conventional total knee arthroplasty group. In patients with an uncompromised cardiopulmonary system, the embolic load difference between the techniques was not clinically relevant.

Level of Evidence:

Therapeutic Level I. See Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.

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