Anterior cruciate ligament graft forces are sensitive to fixation angle and tunnel position within the native femoral footprint during passive flexion

Robert N. Kent, Mark J. Amirtharaj, Erin E. Berube, Carl W. Imhauser, Ran Thein, Pramod B. Voleti, Thomas L. Wickiewicz, Andrew D. Pearle, Danyal H. Nawabi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) graft position within the anatomic femoral footprint of the native ACL and the flexion angle at which the graft is fixed (i.e., fixation angle) are important considerations in ACL reconstruction surgery. However, their combined effect on ACL graft force remains less well understood. Hypothesis: During passive flexion, grafts placed high within the femoral footprint carry lower forces than grafts placed low within the femoral footprint (i.e., high and low grafts, respectively). Forces carried by high grafts are independent of fixation angle. All reconstructions impart higher forces on the graft than those carried by the native ACL. Study Design: Controlled laboratory study. Methods: Five fresh-frozen cadaveric knees were mounted to a robotic manipulator and flexed from full extension to 90° of flexion. The ACL was sectioned and ACL force was calculated via superposition. ACL reconstructions were then performed using a patellar tendon autograft. For each knee, four different reconstruction permutations were tested: high and low femoral graft positions fixed at 15° and at 30° of flexion. Graft forces were calculated from full extension to 90° of flexion for each combination of femoral graft position and fixation angle again via superposition. Native ACL and ACL graft forces were compared through early flexion (by averaging tissue force from 0 to 30° of flexion) and in 5° increments from full extension to 90° of flexion. Results: When fixed at 30° of flexion, high grafts carried less force than low grafts through early flexion bearing a respective 64 ± 19 N and 88 ± 11 N (p = 0.02). Increasing fixation angle from 15° to 30° caused graft forces through early flexion to increase 40 ± 13 N in low grafts and 23 ± 6 N in high grafts (p < 0.001). Low grafts fixed at 30° of flexion differed most from the native ACL, carrying 67 ± 9 N more force through early flexion (p < 0.001). Conclusion: ACL grafts placed high within the femoral footprint and fixed at a lower flexion angle carried less force through passive flexion compared to grafts placed lower within the femoral footprint and fixed at a higher flexion angle. At the prescribed pretensions, all grafts carried higher forces than the native ACL through passive flexion. Clinical Relevance: Both fixation angle and femoral graft location within the anatomic ACL footprint influence graft forces and, therefore, should be considered when performing ACL reconstruction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)266-274
Number of pages9
JournalKnee
Volume33
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2021

Keywords

  • Anterior cruciate ligament
  • Femoral footprint
  • Fixation angle
  • Force
  • Knee
  • Patellar tendon graft
  • Reconstruction
  • Superposition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine

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