[Restricted motion after total knee arthroplasty]

T Kucera, K Urban, K Karpas, P Sponer
Acta Chirurgiae Orthopaedicae et Traumatologiae Cechoslovaca 2007, 74 (5): 326-31

PURPOSE OF THE STUDY: The aim of the study was to ascertain what proportion of patients undergoing total knee arthroplasty (TKA) complain of restricted knee joint motion, and to investigate options for improvement of this situation.

MATERIAL: Our evaluation included a group of 796 patients treated with TKA at our department in the period from January 1, 1990, to December 31, 2004. In all cases, a condylar implant with preservation of the posterior cruciate ligaments was used.

METHODS: In addition to medical history, the range of motion, knee joint malalignment and radiological findings were assessed before surgery. After THA, the type of implant and complications, if any, were recorded, and improvement in joint motion was followed up. Based on the results of Kim et al., flexion contracture equal to or higher than 15 degrees and/or flexion less than 75 degrees were made the criteria of stiffness after THA. Patients with restricted THA motion who had aseptic or septic implant loosening were not included.

RESULTS: Of the 796 evaluated patients, 32 (4.14 %) showed restricted motion after total knee arthroplasty, as assessed by the established criteria. In 16 patients, stiffness defined by these criteria had existed before surgery, and three patients showed an excessive production of adhesions and heterotopic ossifications. In three patients, the implantation procedure resulted in an elevated level of the original joint line and subsequent development of patella infera and increased tension of the posterior cruciate ligament. Four patients declined physical therapy and, in six, the main cause of stiffness could not be found. Seventeen patients did not require surgical therapy for restricted motion; TKA provided significant pain relief and they considered the range of motion achieved to be sufficient. One patient underwent redress 3 months after surgery, but with no success. Repeated releases of adhesions, replacement of a polyethylene liner and revision surgery of the extensor knee structures were performed in 15 patients. In these, the average value of knee flexion increased by 17 degrees only and, in the patients suffering from excessive adhesion production, this value remained almost unchanged. Revision TKA was carried out in four patients, in whom knee joint flexion increased on average by 35 degrees to achieve an average flexion of 83 degrees.

DISCUSSION: Restricted motion after TKA has been reported to range from 1.3 % to 12.0 %, but consistent criteria have not been set up. In our study it was 4.14 %. In agreement with the literature data, one of the reasons was pre-operative restricted motion, which was recorded in 16 of 32 patients. Similarly, also in our patients, biological predisposition to excessive production of fibrocartilage associated with adhesions in all knee joint compartments was the major therapeutic problem. Intra-operative fractures, ligament tears requiring post-operative fixation and unremoved dorsal osteophytes lead to the restriction of knee joint motion. By inadequate resection of articular surface, the original joint line may be at a higher level; this results in an increased tension of the posterior cruciate ligament and patella infera development, both influencing knee flexion. In our study, three patients were affected. Knee joint stiffness can also develop in patients declining physical therapy or in whom this is not correctly performed, often for insufficient analgesia. In contrast to the data reported in the literature, 17 of 32 patients in this study had no need for surgical treatment of restricted knee joint motion. Redress under general anesthesia was not effective. For markedly restricted motion of the knee joint, reimplantation can be recommended or, in less severe cases, an intervention on adjacent soft tissues.

CONCLUSIONS: Restricted motion of the knee joint after TKA is difficult to treat and, therefore, prevention is recommended. This should include thorough conservative treatment of gonarthrosis, early indication for surgery, prevention of elevation in the joint line and consistent rehabilitation with appropriate analgesia. For severe stiffness of the knee joint, as evaluated by the criteria of Kim et al., revision arthroplasty can be recommended.

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