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The effect of anterior cruciate ligament resection on knee biomechanics

changes in flexion-extension gaps, mediolateral laxity, and maximum knee extension

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The objectives of this study were to assess the effect of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) resection on flexion-extension gaps, mediolateral soft tissue laxity, maximum knee extension, and limb alignment during primary total knee arthroplasty (TKA).


This prospective study included 140 patients with symptomatic knee osteoarthritis undergoing primary robotic-arm assisted TKA. All operative procedures 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 study outcomes pre- and post-ACL resection with knee extension and 90° knee flexion. This study included 76 males (54.3%) and 64 females (45.7%) with a mean age of 64.1 years (SD 6.8) at time of surgery. Mean preoperative hip-knee-ankle deformity was 6.1° varus (SD 4.6° varus).


ACL resection increased the mean extension gap significantly more than the flexion gap in the medial (mean 1.2 mm (SD 1.0) versus mean 0.2 mm (SD 0.7) respectively; p < 0.001) and lateral (mean 1.1 mm (SD 0.9) versus mean 0.2 mm (SD 0.6) respectively; p < 0.001) compartments. The mean gap differences following ACL resection did not create any significant mediolateral soft tissue laxity in extension (gap difference: mean 0.1 mm (SD 2.4); p = 0.89) or flexion (gap difference: mean 0.2 mm (SD 3.1); p = 0.40). ACL resection did not significantly affect maximum knee extension (change in maximum knee extension = mean 0.2° (SD 0.7°); p = 0.23) or fixed flexion deformity (mean 4.2° (SD 3.2°) pre-ACL release versus mean 3.9° (SD 3.7°) post-ACL release; p = 0.61). ACL resection did not significantly affect overall limb alignment (change in alignment = mean 0.2° valgus (SD 1.0° valgus; p = 0.11).


ACL resection creates flexion-extension mismatch by increasing the extension gap more than the flexion gap. However, gap differences following ACL resection do not create any mediolateral soft tissue laxity in extension or flexion. ACL resection does not affect maximum knee extension or overall limb alignment.

Cite this article: Bone Joint J 2020;102-B(4):442–448.

Correspondence should be sent to Babar Kayani; E-mail:

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