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Posterior cruciate ligament resection in total knee arthroplasty

the effect on flexion-extension gaps, mediolateral laxity, and fixed flexion deformity

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The aim of this study was to assess the effect of posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) resection on flexion-extension gaps, mediolateral soft-tissue laxity, fixed flexion deformity (FFD), and limb alignment during posterior-stabilized (PS) total knee arthroplasty (TKA).

Patients and Methods

This prospective study included 110 patients with symptomatic osteoarthritis of the knee undergoing primary robot-assisted PS TKA. All operations were performed by a single surgeon using a standard medial parapatellar approach. Optical motion capture technology with fixed femoral and tibial registration pins was used to assess gaps before and after PCL resection in extension and 90° knee flexion. Measurements were made after excision of the anterior cruciate ligament and prior to bone resection. There were 54 men (49.1%) and 56 women (50.9%) with a mean age of 68 years (sd 6.2) at the time of surgery. The mean preoperative hip-knee-ankle deformity was 4.1° varus (sd 3.4).


PCL resection increased the mean flexion gap significantly more than the extension gap in the medial (2.4 mm (sd 1.5) vs 1.3 mm (sd 1.0); p < 0.001) and lateral (3.3 mm (sd 1.6) vs 1.2 mm (sd 0.9); p < 0.01) compartments. The mean gap differences after PCL resection created significant mediolateral laxity in flexion (gap difference: 1.1 mm (sd 2.5); p < 0.001) but not in extension (gap difference: 0.1 mm (sd 2.1); p = 0.51). PCL resection significantly improved the mean FFD (6.3° (sd 4.4) preoperatively vs 3.1° (sd 1.5) postoperatively; p < 0.001). There was a strong positive correlation between the preoperative FFD and change in FFD following PCL resection (Pearson’s correlation coefficient = 0.81; p < 0.001). PCL resection did not significantly affect limb alignment (mean change in alignment: 0.2° valgus (sd 1.2); p = 0.60).


PCL resection creates flexion-extension mismatch by increasing the flexion gap more than the extension gap. The increase in the lateral flexion gap is greater than the increase in the medial flexion gap, which creates mediolateral laxity in flexion. Improvements in FFD following PCL resection are dependent on the degree of deformity before PCL resection.

Cite this article: Bone Joint J 2019;101-B:1230–1237

Correspondence should be sent to B. Kayani; email:

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