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Accuracy of Reference Axes for Femoral Component Rotation in Total Knee Arthroplasty

Computed Tomography-Based Study of 2,128 Femora

Jang, Eugene S. MD, MS1; Connors-Ehlert, Ronald BE2; LiArno, Sally PhD2; Geller, Jeffrey A. MD1; Cooper, H. John MD1; Shah, Roshan P. MD, JD1

The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery: December 4, 2019 - Volume 101 - Issue 23 - p e125
doi: 10.2106/JBJS.19.00438
Scientific Articles

Background: Many reference axes are used to evaluate rotation of the femoral component during total knee arthroplasty, including the Whiteside line, surgical transepicondylar axis (sTEA), anatomical transepicondylar axis (aTEA), posterior condylar axis externally rotated 3° (PCA+3°ER), sulcus line, and femoral transverse axis (FTA). There is no consensus about which of these axes is most accurate.

Methods: The Stryker Orthopaedic Modeling and Analytics (SOMA) database was used to identify 2,128 entire-femur computed tomography (CT) scans. The Whiteside line, aTEA, PCA+3°ER, sulcus line, and FTA were constructed according to published guidelines. Every axis was compared with the sTEA, which is widely regarded as the gold standard reference axis for rotation of the distal part of the femur but has low intraobserver and interobserver reliability intraoperatively.

Results: The PCA+3°ER differed from the sTEA by a mean (and standard deviation) of 0.60° ± 1.64°; it was the most accurate but also had the highest degree of intersubject variability. The mean PCA-sTEA angle was 2.40°, close to the accepted “rule of thumb” of 3°. This value was significantly higher in women (2.64° ± 1.74°) than in men (2.18° ± 1.52°; p < 0.001). The Whiteside line differed from the sTEA by a mean of 1.90° ± 1.38°, and the sulcus line differed from the sTEA by a mean of 1.94° ± 1.49°; neither of these values varied significantly with sex or ethnicity. The FTA differed from the sTEA by a mean of 2.04° ± 1.50°. Least accurate was the aTEA, which differed from the sTEA by a mean of 2.05° ± 1.33°. The combination of 3 axes that are readily available intraoperatively (the Whiteside line, aTEA, and PCA+3°ER) differed from the sTEA by a mean of 1.80° ± 0.70°.

Conclusions: In the largest study of its kind, analysis of CT scans of 2,128 femora revealed that no 1 axis could serve as a marker of femoral component rotation with both high accuracy and low variability. Utilizing a combination of 3 methods (PCA+3°ER, the Whiteside or sulcus line, and aTEA) to maximize accuracy and sex and ethnic generalizability when positioning the femoral component is recommended.

Clinical Relevance: A large-scale study using a CT-based biomorphometric database demonstrated that use of a combination of 3 axes (PCA+3°ER, the Whiteside or sulcus line, and aTEA) was the optimal strategy for judging femoral component rotation.

1Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, NY

2Stryker, Mahwah, New Jersey

Email address for E.S. Jang:

Investigation performed at Columbia University Medical Center, New York, NY

Disclosure: The authors indicated that no external funding was received for any aspect of this work. On the Disclosure of Potential Conflicts of Interest forms, which are provided with the online version of the article, one or more of the authors checked “yes” to indicate that the author had a relevant financial relationship in the biomedical arena outside the submitted work (

Copyright © 2019 by The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Incorporated
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