Intraoperative pressure sensors improve soft-tissue balance but not clinical outcomes in total knee arthroplasty: a multicentre randomized controlled trial

Bone Joint J. 2022 May;104-B(5):604-612. doi: 10.1302/0301-620X.104B5.BJJ-2021-1299.R2.


Aims: Intraoperative pressure sensors allow surgeons to quantify soft-tissue balance during total knee arthroplasty (TKA). The aim of this study was to determine whether using sensors to achieve soft-tissue balance was more effective than manual balancing in improving outcomes in TKA.

Methods: A multicentre randomized trial compared the outcomes of sensor balancing (SB) with manual balancing (MB) in 250 patients (285 TKAs). The primary outcome measure was the mean difference in the four Knee injury and Osteoarthritis Outcome Score subscales (ΔKOOS4) in the two groups, comparing the preoperative and two-year scores. Secondary outcomes included intraoperative balance data, additional patient-reported outcome measures (PROMs), and functional measures.

Results: There was no significant difference in ΔKOOS4 between the two groups at two years (mean difference 0.4 points (95% confidence interval (CI) -4.6 to 5.4); p = 0.869), and multiple regression found that SB was not associated with a significant ΔKOOS4 (0.2-point increase (95% CI -5.1 to 4.6); p = 0.924). There were no significant differences between groups in other PROMs. Six-minute walking distance was significantly increased in the SB group (mean difference 29 metres; p = 0.015). Four-times as many TKAs were unbalanced in the MB group (36.8% MB vs 9.4% SB; p < 0.001). Irrespective of group assignment, no differences were found in any PROM when increasing ICPD thresholds defined balance.

Conclusion: Despite improved quantitative soft-tissue balance, the use of sensors intraoperatively did not differentially improve the clinical or functional outcomes two years after TKA. These results question whether a more precisely balanced TKA that is guided by sensor data, and often achieved by more balancing interventions, will ultimately have a significant effect on clinical outcomes. Cite this article: Bone Joint J 2022;104-B(5):604-612.

Keywords: Intraoperative pressure sensors; Knee injury and Osteoarthritis Outcome Score; Knee replacement; Soft-tissue balance; Total knee arthroplasty; clinical and functional outcomes; functional outcomes; knees; multicentre randomized controlled trial; patient-reported outcome measures (PROMs); randomized trial; soft-tissue balance; t-tests; total knee arthroplasty (TKA).

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Arthroplasty, Replacement, Knee* / methods
  • Humans
  • Knee Joint / surgery
  • Knee Prosthesis*
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee* / surgery
  • Range of Motion, Articular