June 18th, 2011 , Am J Sports Med

Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction: Can anatomic femoral placement be achieved with a transtibial technique?


Recent reports have suggested that a traditional transtibial technique cannot practically accomplish an anatomic anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction.


The degree to which a transtibial technique can anatomically position both tibial and femoral tunnels is highly dependent on tibial tunnel starting position.


Descriptive laboratory study.


Eight fresh-frozen adult knee specimens were fixed at 90° of flexion and then dissected to expose the femoral and tibial ACL footprints. After the central third patellar tendon length was measured for each specimen, computer-assisted navigation was used to identify 2 idealized tibial tunnel starting points, optimizing alignment with the native ligament in the coronal plane but distal enough on the tibia to provide manageable bone-tendon-bone autograft-tibial tunnel mismatch (point A = 10-mm mismatch; point B = 0-mm mismatch). Tibial tunnels were then reamed to the center of the tibial insertion using point A in half of the knees and point B in the other half. Guide pin positioning on the femoral side was then assessed before and after tibial tunnel reaming, after beveling the posterolateral tibial tunnel rim, and after performing a standard notchplasty. After the femoral tunnel was reamed, the digitized contours of the native insertions were compared with those of both tibial and femoral tunnels to calculate percentage overlap.


Starting points A and B occurred 15.9 ± 4.5 mm and 33.0 ± 3.3 mm distal to the joint line, respectively, and 9.8 ± 2.4 mm and 8.3 ± 4.0 mm from the medial edge of the tibial tubercle, respectively. The anterior and posterior aspects of both tibial tunnels’ intra-articular exits were within a few millimeters of the native insertion’s respective boundaries. After the tibial tunnel was reamed from the more proximal point A, a transtibial guide pin was positioned within 2.1 ± 1.6 mm of the femoral insertion’s center (vs 9.3 ± 1.9 mm for point B; P = .02). After beveling a mean 2.6 mm from the back of the point A tibial tunnels, positioning improved to within 0.3 ± 0.7 mm from the center of the femoral insertion (vs 4.2 ± 1.1 mm for the point B tibial tunnels; P = .008). Compared with the more distal starting point, use of point A provided significantly greater insertional overlap (tibial: 97.9% ± 1.4% vs 71.1% ± 15.1%, P = .03; femoral: 87.9% ± 9.2% overlap vs 59.6% ± 8.5%, P = .008). No significant posterior femoral or tibial plateau breakthrough occurred in any specimen.


Tibial and femoral tunnels can be positioned in a highly anatomic manner using a transtibial technique but require careful choice of a proximal tibial starting position and a resulting tibial tunnel that is at the limits of practical. Traditional tibial tunnel starting points will likely result in less anatomic femoral tunnels.


A transtibial single-bundle technique can accomplish a highly anatomic reconstruction but does require meticulous positioning of the tibial tunnel with little margin for error and some degree of graft-tunnel mismatch.