It is unclear why medial unicompartmental knee arthroplasty (UKA) with postoperative valgus alignment causes adjacent compartment osteoarthritis more often than high tibial osteotomy (HTO) for moderate medial osteoarthritis of the knee with varus deformity. This study used a computer simulation to evaluate differences in knee conditions between UKA and HTO with identical valgus alignment.
Dynamic musculoskeletal computer analyses of gait were performed. The hip-knee-ankle angle in fixed-bearing UKA was changed from neutral to 7° valgus by changing the tibial insert thickness. The hip-knee-ankle angle in open-wedge HTO was also changed from neutral to 7° valgus by opening the osteotomy gap.
The lateral tibiofemoral contact forces in HTO were larger than those in UKA until moderate valgus alignments. However, the impact of valgus alignment on increasing lateral forces was more pronounced in UKA, which ultimately demonstrated a larger lateral force than HTO. Valgus alignment in UKA caused progressive ligamentous tightness, including that of the anterior cruciate ligament, resulting in compression of the lateral tibiofemoral compartment. Simultaneously, patellofemoral shear forces were slightly increased and excessive external femoral rotation against the tibia occurred due to the flat medial tibial insert surface and decreased lateral compartment congruency. By contrast, only lateral femoral slide against the tibia occurred in excessively valgus-aligned HTO.
In contrast to extra-articular correction in HTO, which results from opening the osteotomy gap, intra-articular valgus correction in UKA with thicker tibial inserts caused progressive ligamentous tightness and kinematic abnormalities, resulting in early osteoarthritis progression into adjacent compartments.

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