Restoring the constitutional alignment with a restrictive kinematic protocol improves quantitative soft-tissue balance in total knee arthroplasty: a randomized controlled trial

Bone Joint J. 2020 Jan;102-B(1):117-124. doi: 10.1302/0301-620X.102B1.BJJ-2019-0674.R2.


Aims: It is unknown whether kinematic alignment (KA) objectively improves knee balance in total knee arthroplasty (TKA), despite this being the biomechanical rationale for its use. This study aimed to determine whether restoring the constitutional alignment using a restrictive KA protocol resulted in better quantitative knee balance than mechanical alignment (MA).

Methods: We conducted a randomized superiority trial comparing patients undergoing TKA assigned to KA within a restrictive safe zone or MA. Optimal knee balance was defined as an intercompartmental pressure difference (ICPD) of 15 psi or less using a pressure sensor. The primary endpoint was the mean intraoperative ICPD at 10° of flexion prior to knee balancing. Secondary outcomes included balance at 45° and 90°, requirements for balancing procedures, and presence of tibiofemoral lift-off.

Results: A total of 63 patients (70 knees) were randomized to KA and 62 patients (68 knees) to MA. Mean ICPD at 10° flexion in the KA group was 11.7 psi (SD 13.1) compared with 32.0 psi in the MA group (SD 28.9), with a mean difference in ICPD between KA and MA of 20.3 psi (p < 0.001). Mean ICPD in the KA group was significantly lower than in the MA group at 45° and 90°, respectively (25.2 psi MA vs 14.8 psi KA, p = 0.004; 19.1 psi MA vs 11.7 psi KA, p < 0.002, respectively). Overall, participants in the KA group were more likely to achieve optimal knee balance (80% vs 35%; p < 0.001). Bone recuts to achieve knee balance were more likely to be required in the MA group (49% vs 9%; p < 0.001). More participants in the MA group had tibiofemoral lift-off (43% vs 13%; p < 0.001).

Conclusion: This study provides persuasive evidence that restoring the constitutional alignment with KA in TKA results in a statistically significant improvement in quantitative knee balance, and further supports this technique as a viable alternative to MA. Cite this article: Bone Joint J. 2020;102-B(1):117-124.

Keywords: Constitutional alignment; Kinematic alignment; Mechanical alignment; Soft tissue balance; Total knee arthroplasty.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Equivalence Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Arthroplasty, Replacement, Knee / methods*
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Knee Prosthesis*
  • Learning Curve
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Observer Variation
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee / physiopathology
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee / surgery*
  • Patient Care Planning
  • Preoperative Care
  • Prosthesis Implantation / methods
  • Range of Motion, Articular / physiology
  • Treatment Outcome