Anterior Cruciate Ligament Force Increases Linearly as Posterior Tibial Slope Increases

Background

Previous work has reported that increased tibial slope is directly correlated with increased anterior tibial translation, possibly predisposing patients to higher rates of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears and causing higher rates of ACL graft fail- ures over the long term. However, the effect of changes in sagittal plane tibial slope on ACL reconstruction (ACLR) graft force has not been well defined.

Purpose/Hypothesis

The purpose of this study was to quantify the effect of changes in sagittal plane tibial slope on ACLR graft force at varying knee flexion angles. Our null hypothesis was that changing the sagittal plane tibial slope would not affect force on the ACL graft.

Study Design

Controlled laboratory study.

Methods

Ten male fresh-frozen cadaveric knees had a posterior tibial osteotomy performed and an external fixator placed for testing and accurate slope adjustment. Following ACLR, specimens were compressed with a 200-N axial load at flexion angles of 0°, 15°, 30°, 45°, and 60°, and the graft loads were recorded through a force transducer clamped to the graft. Tibial slope was varied between 22° and 20° of posterior slope at 2° increments under these test conditions.

Results

ACL graft force in the loaded testing state increased linearly as slope increased. This effect was independent of flexion angle. The final model utilized a 2-factor linear mixed-effects regression model and noted a significant, highly positive, and linear relationship between tibial slope and ACL graft force in axially loaded knees at all flexion angles tested (slope coefficient = 0.92, SE = 0.08, P \ .001). Significantly higher graft force was also observed at 0° of flexion as compared with all other flexion angles for the loaded condition (all P \ .001).

Conclusion

The authors found that tibial slope had a strong linear relationship to the amount of graft force experienced by an ACL graft in axially loaded knees. Thus, a flatter tibial slope had significantly less loading of ACL grafts, while steeper slopes increased ACL graft loading. Our biomechanical findings support recent clinical evidence of increased ACL graft failure with steeper tibial slope secondary to increased graft loading.

Clinical Relevance

Evaluation of the effect of increasing tibial slope on ACL graft force can guide surgeons when deciding if a slope-decreasing proximal tibial osteotomy should be performed before a revision ACLR. Overall, as slope increases, ACL graft force increases, and in our study, flatter slopes had lower ACL graft forces and were protective of the ACLR graft.

Full Article:  Tibial Slope and Its Effect on Force in Anterior Cruciate Ligament Grafts

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