Purpose: This article summarises the history and evolution of osteotomy around the knee, examining the changes in principles, operative technique and results over three distinct periods: Historical (pre 1940), Modern Early Years (1940-2000) and Modern Later Years (2000-Present). We aim to place the technique in historical context and to demonstrate its evolution into a validated procedure with beneficial outcomes whose use can be justified for specific indications.
Materials and methods: A thorough literature review was performed to identify the important steps in the development of osteotomy around the knee.
Results: The indications and surgical technique for knee osteotomy have never been standardised, and historically, the results were unpredictable and at times poor. These factors, combined with the success of knee arthroplasty from the 1980s onward, led to knee osteotomy being regarded as an irrelevant surgical option by many surgeons. Despite its fluctuating reputation, this article demonstrates the reasons for the enduring practice of osteotomy, not least because achieving the appropriate alignment is now recognised as the foundation step when planning any surgical intervention.
Conclusions: With appropriate patient selection, accurate pre-operative planning, modern surgical fixation techniques and rapid rehabilitation, osteotomy around the knee is now an effective biological treatment for degenerative disease, deformity, knee instability and also as an adjunct to other complex joint surface and meniscal cartilage surgery.
Level of evidence: V.