BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders BMC series – open, inclusive and trusted 2017 18:166

Differences between native and prosthetic knees in terms of cross-sectional morphology of the femoral trochlea: a study based on three-dimensional models and virtual total knee arthroplasty

Zhe Du, Shichang Chen, Mengning Yan, Bing Yue & You Wang


The cross-sectional morphology of the prosthetic knee is crucial to understanding patellar motion and quadriceps strength after total knee arthroplasty. However, few comparative evaluations of the cross-sectional morphology of the femoral trochlea have been performed in the native knee and currently available femoral implants, and the relationship between the trochlear anatomy of prosthetic components and post-operative patellofemoral complications remains unclear. We aimed to investigate the differences in cross-sectional morphology of the femoral trochlea between native knees and prosthetic femoral components.


Virtual total knee arthroplasty was performed, whereby four different femoral components (medial-pivot, Triathlon, NRG and NexGen) were virtually superimposed onto three-dimensional models of 42 healthy femurs. The following morphological parameters were measured in three cross-sections (0, 45 and 90°) of the femoral trochlea: sulcus height, lateral tilt angle, medial tilt angle and sulcus angle. Only statistically significant differences are described further (p < 0.05).


In the 0° cross-section, sulcus height was smaller in the native knee than in the Triathlon, NRG and NexGen components; all prosthetic components had smaller lateral tilt angles and larger medial tilt angles. In the 45° cross-section, sulcus height was larger in the native knee than in the medial-pivot, Triathlon and NexGen components; both lateral and medial tilt angles were smaller in the prosthetic components. In the 90° cross-section, sulcus height was smaller in the native knee than in the medial-pivot component; all prosthetic components had a larger lateral tilt angle and smaller medial tilt angle. In all cross-sections, the sulcus angle was smaller in the native knee.


The discrepancy between native and prosthetic trochlear geometries suggests altered knee mechanics after total knee arthroplasty, but further cadaveric, computational or fluoroscopic investigations are necessary to clarify the implications of this observation. Our findings can be used to optimize biomechanical guidelines for total knee arthroplasty (patellar resurfacing or non-resurfacing) in Chinese individuals so as to decrease the risk of patellar lateral dislocation, to maintain stability and to optimize extensor kinematics.

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