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, 85 (6), 1018-29

Effect of the Angle of the Femoral and Tibial Tunnels in the Coronal Plane and Incremental Excision of the Posterior Cruciate Ligament on Tension of an Anterior Cruciate Ligament Graft: An in Vitro Study

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Effect of the Angle of the Femoral and Tibial Tunnels in the Coronal Plane and Incremental Excision of the Posterior Cruciate Ligament on Tension of an Anterior Cruciate Ligament Graft: An in Vitro Study

Richard Simmons et al. J Bone Joint Surg Am.

Abstract

Background: High tension in an anterior cruciate ligament graft adversely affects both the graft and the knee; however, it is unknown why high graft tension in flexion occurs in association with a posterior femoral tunnel. The purpose of the present study was to determine the effect of the angle of the femoral and tibial tunnels in the coronal plane and incremental excision of the posterior cruciate ligament on the tension of an anterior cruciate ligament graft during passive flexion.

Methods: Eight cadaveric knees were tested. The angle of the tibial tunnel was varied to 60 degrees, 70 degrees, and 80 degrees in the coronal plane with use of three interchangeable, low-friction bushings. The femoral tunnel, with a 1-mm-thick posterior wall, was drilled through the tibial tunnel bushing with use of the transtibial technique. After the graft had been tested in all three tibial bushings with one femoral tunnel, the femoral tunnel was filled with bone cement and the tunnel combinations were tested. Lastly, the graft was replaced in the 80 degrees femoral and tibial tunnels, and the tests were repeated with excision of the lateral edge of the posterior cruciate ligament in 2-mm increments. Graft tension, the flexion angle, and anteroposterior laxity were recorded in a six-degrees-of-freedom load-application system that passively moved the knee from 0 degrees to 120 degrees of flexion.

Results: The graft tension at 120 degrees of flexion was affected by the angle of the femoral tunnel and by incremental excision of the posterior cruciate ligament. The highest graft tension at 120 degrees of flexion was 169 +/- 9 N, which was detected with the graft in the 80 degrees femoral and 80 degrees tibial tunnels. The lowest graft tension at 120 degrees of flexion was 76 +/- 8 N, which was detected with the graft in the 60 degrees femoral and 60 degrees tibial tunnels. The graft tension of 76 N at 120 degrees of flexion with the graft in the 60 degrees femoral and 60 degrees tibial tunnels was closer to the tension in the intact anterior cruciate ligament. Excision of the lateral edge of the posterior cruciate ligament in 2 and 4-mm increments significantly lowered the graft tension at 120 degrees of flexion without changing the anteroposterior position of the tibia.

Conclusions: Placing the femoral tunnel at 60 degrees in the coronal plane lowers graft tension in flexion. Our results suggest that high graft tension in flexion is caused by impingement of the graft against the posterior cruciate ligament, which results from placing the femoral tunnel medially at the apex of the notch in the coronal plane.

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