The Journal of Arthroplasty , Volume 33 , Issue 7 , S116 - S120

Radiographic Changes in Nonoperative Contralateral Knee After Unilateral Total Knee Arthroplasty

Parisi, Thomas J. et al.


Some patients perceive symptomatic improvement in the contralateral knee after unilateral total knee arthroplasty (TKA). This so-called “splinting effect” has been observed but has not been radiographically evaluated.


A retrospective review of patients with bilateral knee osteoarthritis treated with unilateral TKA was performed. Patients were subcategorized into 2 groups based on whether contralateral TKA was performed within the 2-year period. Contralateral radiographic measurements were performed.


Forty-four of 203 patients had contralateral TKA performed within 2 years. Preoperative parameters were significantly worse in the bilateral group. By 6 weeks postoperatively, mechanical axis plumbline improved approximately 1°, with more change in those patients with preoperative varus alignment. Larger delta changes were also present in bilateral group preoperative to 1-year radiographs for tibiofemoral angle and joint space widening.


In patients with bilateral knee osteoarthritis who undergo unilateral TKA, a splinting effect may be present and measurable radiographically with improvement of contralateral mechanical axis plumbline. Further research is necessary to determine whether this improvement may delay contralateral TKA implantation.

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