Whether anterior referencing (AR) or posterior referencing (PR) produces a more balanced flexion gap in total knee arthroplasty (TKA) using measured resection remains controversial. Our goal was to compare AR and PR in terms of (1) medial and lateral gaps at full extension and 90° of flexion, and (2) maximum medial and lateral collateral ligament (MCL and LCL) forces in flexion.
Computational models of 6 knees implanted with posterior-stabilized TKA were virtually positioned with both AR and PR techniques. The ligament properties were standardized to achieve a balanced knee at full extension. Medial-lateral gaps were measured in response to varus and valgus loading at full extension and 90° of flexion; MCL and LCL forces were estimated during passive flexion.
At full extension, the maximum difference in the medial-lateral gap for both AR and PR was <1 mm in all 6 knee models. However, in flexion, only 3 AR and 3 PR models produced a difference in medial-lateral gap <2 mm. During passive flexion, the maximum MCL force ranged from 2 N to 87 N in AR and from 17 N to 127 N in PR models. The LCL was unloaded at >25° of flexion in all models.
In measured resection TKA, neither AR nor PR better balance the ligaments and produce symmetrical gaps in flexion. Alternative bone resection techniques and rotation alignment targets are needed to achieve more predictable knee balance.