Compensatory gait mechanics in patients with unilateral knee arthritis

Chris A McGibbon, David E Krebs
Journal of Rheumatology 2002, 29 (11): 2410-9

OBJECTIVE: Few studies exist on gait adaptation caused by knee osteoarthritis (OA), and those have only explored adaptations of the kinematics and kinetics of the knee joint itself. We characterize ankle, knee, hip, and low back mechanical energy expenditures (MEE) and compensations (MEC) during gait in patients with knee OA.

METHODS: Thirteen elderly patients with unilateral knee OA and 10 matched healthy elderly controls were studied during preferred and paced speed gait. Gait speed, step length, and lower extremity and low back joint MEE and MEC were compared between groups.

RESULTS: Patients with knee OA had lower, but not significantly different, walking speed and step length compared to the controls, and had significantly different joint kinetic profiles. Patients had reduced ankle power at terminal stance, lacked a second positive peak in knee power, and had increased power absorption at the hip. Abnormal knee kinematics were exaggerated when walking at a paced speed, but hip kinetics normalized among patients with OA.

CONCLUSION: Reduced ankle plantar-flexion power in patients with knee OA was probably due to disrupted transfer of energy through the knee. Lack of concentric knee power supports prior studies' conclusions that patients with knee OA avoid using their quadriceps to stabilize the knee, probably to reduce articular loads. Patients with knee OA increase eccentric hip power due to increased hip extension caused by abnormal knee kinematics, potentially increasing hip articular forces. This passive mechanism, however, may assist in the advancement of the leg into swing phase.

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