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The effect of weight-bearing on tibiofemoral alignment in asymptomatic, osteoarthritic and prosthetic knees

Clarke, J.V. and Deakin, A.H. and Picard, F. and Riches, P.E. (2012) The effect of weight-bearing on tibiofemoral alignment in asymptomatic, osteoarthritic and prosthetic knees. Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, British Volume, 94-B (Supp X). p. 57. ISSN 0301-620X

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Abstract

Knee alignment is a fundamental measurement in the assessment, monitoring and surgical management of patients with osteoarthritis [OA]. In spite of extensive research into the consequences of malalignment, our understanding of static tibiofemoral alignment remains poor with discrepancies in the reported weight-bearing characteristics of the knee joint and there is a lack of data regarding the potential variation between supine and standing (functional) conditions. In total knee arthroplasty [TKA] the lower limb alignment is usually measured in a supine condition and decisions on prosthesis placement made on this. An improved understanding of the relationship between supine and weight-bearing conditions may lead to a reassessment of current surgical goals.The purpose of this study was to explore the relationship between supine and standing lower limb alignment in asymptomatic, osteoarthritic and prosthetic knees. Our hypothesis was that the change in alignment of these three groups would be different.A non-invasive infrared position capture system (accuracy ±1° in both coronal and sagittal plane) was used to assess the knee alignment for 30 asymptomatic controls and 31 patients with OA, both before and after TKA. Coronal and sagittal mechanical femorotibial (MFT) angles in extension (negative values indicating varus in the coronal plane and hyperextension in the sagittal plane) were measured with each subject supine and in bi-pedal stance. For the supine test, the lower limb was supported at the heel and the subject told to relax. For the standing position subjects were asked to assume their normal stance. The change in alignment between these two conditions was analysed using a paired t-test for both coronal and sagittal planes. To quantify the change in 3D, vector plots of ankle centre displacement relative to the knee centre from the supine to standing condition were produced.Alignment in both planes changed significantly from supine to standing for all three groups. For the coronal plane the supine and standing measurements (in degrees, mean(SD)) were 0.1(2.5) and −1.1(3.7) in the asymptomatic group, −2.5(5.7) and −3.6(6) in the OA group and −0.7(1.4) and −2.5(2) in the TKA group. For the sagittal plane the numbers were −1.7(3.3) and −5.5(4.9); 7.7(7.1) and 1.8(7.7); 6.8(5.1) and 1.4((7.6) respectively. This change was most frequently towards relative varus and extension. Vector plots showed that the trend of relative varus and extension in stance was similar in overall magnitude and direction between the three groups.Knee alignment can change from supine to standing for asymptomatic and osteoarthritic knees, most frequently towards relative varus and hyperextension. The similarities between each group did not support our hypothesis. The consistent kinematic pattern for different knee types suggests that soft tissue restraints rather than underlying joint deformity may be more influential in dynamic control of alignment from lying to standing. In spite of some evidence suggesting a difference between supine and standing knee alignment a mechanical femorotibial (MFT) angle of 0° is a common intra-operative target as well as the desired post-operative weight-bearing alignment. These results indicated that arthroplasties positioned in varus intra-operatively could potentially become ‘outliers’ (>3° varus) when measured weight-bearing. Mild flexion contractures may correct when standing, reducing the need for intra-operative posterior release. These potential changes should be considered when positioning TKA components on supine limbs as post-operative functional alignment may be different.