Passive anterior tibial subluxation in anterior cruciate ligament-deficient knees

Miho J. Tanaka, Kristofer J. Jones, Andrew M. Gargiulo, Demetris Delos, Thomas L. Wickiewicz, Hollis G. Potter, Andrew D. Pearle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Background: Abnormal anterior-posterior and rotational motion secondary to anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) insufficiency is typically described in terms of dynamic laxity. An original description of the abnormal tibiofemoral relationship in the setting of ACL insufficiency has highlighted the presence of a fixed anterior tibial subluxation in this population of failed ACL reconstruction (ACLR); however, no study has quantified the degree of tibial subluxation in both the medial and lateral compartments. Purpose: To measure and compare the amount of anterior tibial subluxation among various states of ACL competency, including (1) intact ACL, (2) acute ACL disruption, and (3) failed ACLR (ie, patients requiring revision ACLR). We hypothesized that anterior tibial displacement would be greater in the lateral compartment and in cases of failed ACLR compared with intact and acute ACL injured states. Study Design: Cross-sectional study; Level of evidence, 3. Methods: Using sagittal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and a standardized measurement technique, we determined the amount of anterior tibial subluxation relative to a constant posterior condylar reference point. Measurements were performed in both the medial and the lateral compartments and were compared with 1-way analysis of variance. The presence of meniscal tears along with meniscal volume loss and chondral damage was correlated with the amount of subluxation in each group. Results: Compared with the intact ACL state, the medial tibial plateau was positioned more anteriorly relative to the femur in both acute ACL injured knees (mean 1.0 mm) and those that failed ACLR (mean 1.8 mm) (P = .072). In the lateral compartment, there was 0.8 mm of mean anterior tibial displacement after acute ACL injury and 3.9 mm of mean anterior subluxation in patients who failed ACLR (P<.001). Mean anterior displacement of the lateral plateau in patients who failed ACLR was almost 5 times greater than the amount observed in patients with acute ACL injuries. There was no correlation between meniscal/chondral injury and the amount of subluxation. Conclusion: Patients who require revision ACLR have an abnormal tibiofemoral relationship noted on MRI that is most pronounced in the lateral compartment and should be taken into account during revision surgery. These observations may explain the suboptimal clinical results seen in some patients who undergo revision ACLR.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2347-2352
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Sports Medicine
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2013


  • ACL tear
  • anatomic ACL reconstruction
  • revision ACL reconstruction
  • tibial subluxation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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