Purpose: To determine graft bending angle (GBA) during knee motion after anatomic anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction and to clarify whether surgical techniques affect GBA. Our hypotheses were that the graft bending angle would be highest at knee extension and the difference of surgical techniques would affect the bending steepness.
Methods: Eight healthy volunteers with a mean age of 29.3 ± 3.0 years were recruited and 3D MRI knee models were created at three flexion angles (0°, 90° and 130°). Surgical simulation of the tunnel drilling was performed with anatomic tunnel position using each outside-in (OI), trans-portal (TP) and trans-tibial (TT) techniques on the identical cases. The models were matched to other knee positions and the GBA in 3D was measured using computational software. Double-bundle ACL reconstruction was analysed first, and single-bundle reconstruction was also analysed to evaluate its effect to reduce GBA. A repeated-measures ANOVA was used to compare GBA difference at three flexion angles, by three techniques or of three bundles.
Results: GBA changed substantially with knee motion, and it was highest at full extension (p < 0.001) in each surgical technique. OI technique exhibited highest GBA for anteromedial bundle (94.3° ± 5.2°) at extension, followed by TP (83.1° ± 6.5°) and TT (70.0° ± 5.2°) techniques (p < 0.01). GBA for posterolateral bundle at extension were also high in OI (84.6° ± 7.4°), TP (83.0° ± 6.3°) and TT (77.2° ± 7.0°) techniques (n.s.). Single-bundle grafts did not decrease GBA compared with double-bundle grafts. In OI technique, a more proximal location of the femoral exit reduced GBA of each bundle at extension and 90° flexion.
Conclusion: A significant GBA change with knee motion and considerably steep bending at full extension, especially with OI and TP techniques, were simulated. Although single-bundle technique did not reduce GBA as seen in double-bundle technique, proximal location of femoral exits by OI technique, with tunnels kept in anatomic position, was effective in decreasing GBA at knee extension and flexion. For clinical relevance, high stress on graft and bone interface has been suggested by steep GBA at full extension after anatomic ACL reconstruction.
Level of evidence: Therapeutic study (prospective comparative study), Level II.
Keywords: Anatomic; Anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction; Computer simulation; Graft bending angle; Graft stress.