Traditionally, a rigid intramedullary rod has been used as the reference guide for femoral cutting in total knee arthroplasty (TKA). However, correct positioning of this rigid rod is difficult, especially in the knees with severe distal femoral sagittal bowing. A flexible intramedullary rod has been developed to address this problem. This study was performed to compare the sagittal alignment and clinical outcomes of TKAs performed with flexible and rigid femoral intramedullary guides. Thirty-eight knees that underwent primary TKAs with flexible intramedullary rods as femoral cutting guides were matched according to patient height and sex with 38 knees that underwent TKAs using conventional rigid rods. Clinical outcomes, including the range of motion and functional scores, and radiological variables, including the distal femoral bowing angle (DFBA), femoral component flexion angle (FFA), and mediolateral overhang and anteroposterior (AP) oversizing of femoral components, were evaluated. Clinical and radiological outcomes did not differ significantly between the flexible rod and conventional rigid rod groups. A subgroup analysis of knees with severe distal femoral sagittal bowing (DFBA >4 degrees) showed that the FFA was significantly larger in the flexible rod group than in the rigid rod group, with an average difference of 3 degrees (5.2 ± 2.4 vs. 2.2 ± 1.6 degrees, respectively, p = 0.022). In addition, the incidence of AP oversizing of femoral components was lower in the flexible rod group than in the rigid rod group (11.1 vs. 60.0%, respectively, p = 0.027). Relative to TKA with a rigid rod, TKA performed with a flexible femoral intramedullary guide resulted in more flexed sagittal alignment of femoral components in patients with severe distal femoral sagittal bowing. This greater flexion of the femoral component resulted in less AP oversizing. However, the use of a flexible rod had no impact on short-term clinical outcomes.
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