The Knee, ISSN: 1873-5800, Vol: 19, Issue: 5, Page: 519-21

Fixed flexion deformity following total knee arthroplasty. A prospective study of the natural history

Quah, Conal; Swamy, Girish; Lewis, James; Kendrew, John; Badhe, Nitin


Stiffness following total knee arthroplasty (TKA) is a disabling problem resulting in pain and reduced function.


The aim of our study was to evaluate the natural course of fixed flexion deformity (FFD ) following primary total knee arthroplasty.


Prospective review of 1626 patients undergoing primary TKA from 2001 to 2006 with a minimum of 4 year follow up. Demographic data included post-operative range of motion; type of prosthesis used, treatment modalities for stiffness and the final range of motion were recorded. FFD was defined as class 1(5–15 degrees) and Class 2 (> 15 degrees). Patients with a pre-operative FFD of > 15, infection, stiffness treated with manipulation or revision surgery were excluded from the study.


Of the 1626 patients evaluated, 170 (10.5%) presented with a FFD. 18 patients were excluded from the study and 16 were lost to follow up. 124 (91.2%) were class 1 and 12 (8.8%) were class 2. FFD improved from a mean of 8.8 degrees to 0.4 degrees ( p < 0.0001) in 11.4 months. In 94.1% patients the FFD completely resolved (i.e. < 5 degrees) at a mean of 10.8 months ( p < 0.0001). In the remaining 5.9% of patients, FFD improved from a mean of 16.4 to 6.9 degrees at a mean follow up of 21.5 months ( p < 0.0001).


A gradual improvement in the FFD can be expected up to 2 years and a small residual flexion contracture does not cause functional deficit.

Level of evidence

Prospective cohort study, level 3.

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