Arthroplasty Today (2021-04-01)

Tibial Mechanical Axis Is Nonorthogonal to the Floor in Varus Knee Alignment

  • Stefano A. Bini, MD,
  • Christopher C. Chung, BS,
  • Scott A. Wu, BA,
  • Erik N. Hansen, MD

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 8
pp. 237 – 242


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Background: Classical models of the knee assume the joint line is parallel to the floor and the tibial mechanical axis (TMA) is orthogonal to the floor. Our study characterizes the angle subtended by the TMA and floor during bipedal stance, called the tibial axis orientation angle (TAOA), and tests the assumption that the TMA should be orthogonal to the floor. Methods: We reviewed the nonoperative knee on full-length, standing radiographs in patients undergoing total knee arthroplasty between 2013 and 2017. Radiographic measurements were obtained for hip-knee-ankle axis, medial proximal tibial angle (MPTA), joint line orientation angle, and TAOA and correlated by regression analysis. The cohort was stratified by hip-knee-ankle axis alignment to determine statistical differences in knee angle values. Demographic data were collected to assess associations with knee angles. Results: Our cohort included 68 patients, with 56% female and average age of 62.3 years. Varus knees comprised 56% of the cohort, with 7% neutral and 37% valgus. The cohort demonstrated an MPTA of 3.06°, TAOA of 2.67°, and joint line orientation angle of 0.36°. Varus knees had a higher MPTA (4.26°) and TAOA (4.74°) than valgus knees (P < .001). MPTA and TAOA were correlated on regression analysis (r2 = 0.465), and all angles were statistically different between sexes. Conclusion: The angle between the TMA and floor, called TAOA, is not orthogonal in normal knees, contrary to assumptions in classical biomechanics. Knee angles vary significantly between varus and valgus cohorts, and the distinction between these cohorts should be noted when evaluating normal joint line angles.