Loading capacity of dynamic knee spacers: a comparison between hand-moulded and COPAL spacers. BMC Musculoskelet Disord 20, 613 (2019).

Loading capacity of dynamic knee spacers: a comparison between hand-moulded and COPAL spacers

Chong, SY., Shen, L. & Frantz, S.


The two-stage revision protocol represents the current gold standard for treating infected total knee replacement implants. Allowing early mobility with weight-bearing between staged procedures will enable early restoration to knee function. So, the mechanical performance of knee spacers is a key issue. Commercially available moulds are often used as they are easy to prepare and produce smoother surfaces of the articulating parts. However, they are costly, and only for single use. A cost-effective alternative is the surgeon-made hand-moulded spacers. In this study, we wanted to determine how the hand-moulded spacers will compare biomechanically with the commercially available COPAL spacers.


Seven cadaveric knees were implanted with knee spacers fabricated using COPAL knee moulds. The same surgeon implanted eight cadaveric knees with hand-moulded spacers. In the first test protocol, an axial load was applied at 200 mm/min till failure. In the second test protocol, the knees were cyclically loaded in five steps of 1000 cycles each from 30-400 N, 30-600 N, 30-800 N, 30-1000 N, 30-1200 N at 1.5 Hz.


COPAL knee spacers demonstrated a maximum load and mean stiffness of 5202 (± 486.9) N and 1098 (± 201.5) N/mm respectively. The hand-moulded knee spacers demonstrated a mean stiffness of 4509 (± 1092.6) N and 1008.7 (± 275.4) N/mm respectively. The maximum axial displacement was 1.19 ± 0.57 mm and 0.89 ± 0.30 mm for specimens implanted with COPAL knee spacers and hand-moulded spacers respectively. The differences between COPAL and hand-moulded knee spacers were not statistically different.


Our study demonstrated that dynamic knee spacers may be able to withstand more than the touch-down load permitted in previous studies, and this may allow more weight-bearing during ambulation. Previous studies have demonstrated that hand-moulded knee spacers have similar advantages to commercially available dynamic spacers with respect to mobility, pain, bone loss, and reinfection rate. Given that ambulation with weight-bearing up to 1200 N is permitted during rehabilitation, it may be more cost-effective to fabricate hand-moulded spacers in revision total knee arthroplasty.

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