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Popliteal Vessels in Knee Surgery A Magnetic Resonance Imaging Study

Smith, Paul, N.; Gelinas, Jill; Kennedy, Karen; Thain, Lisa; Rorabeck, Cecil, H.; Bourne, Robert, B.

Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research: October 1999 - Volume 367 - Issue - p 158–164
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Popliteal artery injury during surgery of the knee is rare but can have devastating consequences. The position of knee flexion has been thought to be protective for the popliteal artery, allowing it to fall back from the knee joint. No prior study has provided in vivo cross sectional evidence of the behavior of the popliteal vessels during knee flexion with the effect of gravity. Magnetic resonance imaging was used in nine volunteers to measure the distance of the popliteal artery and veins from the posterior proximal tibia at two levels corresponding to the levels of osteotomy in total knee arthroplasty and in high tibial osteotomy. Scans were taken with the knee in full extension and at 90° flexion with the patient in the supine position, allowing for the effect of gravity. Considerable variation in behavior of the vein and the artery was observed at the high tibial osteotomy cross sectional level and the total knee arthroplasty cross sectional level. In two knees at the high tibial osteotomy cross sectional level and in two knees at the total knee arthroplasty cross sectional, level the artery moved closer to the posterior tibia with knee flexion. Even with the effect of gravity included, knee flexion does not guarantee removal of the popliteal vessels from potential harm during surgery of the knee.

From the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, University Hospital, London, Ontario, Canada.

© 1999 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.