Transtibial versus anteromedial portal reaming in anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction: an anatomic and biomechanical evaluation of surgical technique

Arthroscopy. 2011 Mar;27(3):380-90. doi: 10.1016/j.arthro.2010.07.018. Epub 2010 Oct 29.


Purpose: The purpose of this study was to objectively evaluate the anatomic and biomechanical outcomes of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction with transtibial versus anteromedial portal drilling of the femoral tunnel.

Methods: Ten human cadaveric knees (5 matched pairs) without ligament injury or pre-existing arthritis underwent ACL reconstruction by either a transtibial or anteromedial portal technique. A medial arthrotomy was created in all cases before reconstruction to determine the center of the native ACL tibial and femoral footprints. A 10-mm tibial tunnel directed toward the center of the tibial footprint was prepared in an identical fashion, starting at the anterior border of the medial collateral ligament in all cases. For transtibial femoral socket preparation (n = 5), a guidewire was placed as close to the center of the femoral footprint as possible. With anteromedial portal reconstruction (n = 5), the guidewire was positioned centrally in the femoral footprint and the tunnel drilled through the medial portal in hyperflexion. An identical graft was fixed and tensioned, and knee stability was assessed with the following standardized examinations: (1) anterior drawer, (2) Lachman, (3) maximal internal rotation at 30°, (4) manual pivot shift, and (5) instrumented pivot shift. Distance from the femoral guidewire to the center of the femoral footprint and dimensions of the tibial tunnel intra-articular aperture were measured for all specimens. Statistical analysis was completed with a repeated-measures analysis of variance and Tukey multiple comparisons test with P ≤ .05 defined as significant.

Results: The anteromedial portal ACL reconstruction controlled tibial translation significantly more than the transtibial reconstruction with anterior drawer, Lachman, and pivot-shift examinations of knee stability (P ≤ .05). Anteromedial portal ACL reconstruction restored the Lachman and anterior drawer examinations to those of the intact condition and constrained translation with the manual and instrumented pivot-shift examinations more than the native ACL (P ≤ .05). Despite optimal guidewire positioning, the transtibial technique resulted in a mean position 1.94 mm anterior and 3.26 mm superior to the center of the femoral footprint. The guidewire was positioned at the center of the femoral footprint through the anteromedial portal in all cases. The tibial tunnel intra-articular aperture was 38% larger in the anteroposterior dimension with the transtibial versus anteromedial portal technique (mean, 14.9 mm v 10.8 mm; P ≤ .05).

Conclusions: The anteromedial portal drilling technique allows for accurate positioning of the femoral socket in the center of the native footprint, resulting in secondary improvement in time-zero control of tibial translation with Lachman and pivot-shift testing compared with conventional transtibial ACL reconstruction. This technique respects the native ACL anatomy but cannot restore it with a single-bundle ACL reconstruction. Eccentric, posterolateral positioning of the guidewire in the tibial tunnel with the transtibial technique results in iatrogenic re-reaming of the tibial tunnel and significant intra-articular aperture expansion.

Clinical relevance: Anteromedial portal drilling of the femoral socket may allow for improved restoration of anatomy and stability with ACL reconstruction compared with conventional transtibial drilling techniques.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament / anatomy & histology*
  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament / surgery*
  • Arthroscopy / methods*
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Cadaver
  • Humans
  • Knee Joint / anatomy & histology
  • Knee Joint / surgery
  • Middle Aged
  • Plastic Surgery Procedures / methods*
  • Tibia / anatomy & histology*
  • Tibia / surgery*