Effects of femoral tunnel placement on knee laxity and forces in an anterior cruciate ligament graft

Keith L. Markolf, Sharon Hame, D. Monte Hunter, Daniel A. Oakes, Bojan Zoric, Paul Gause, Gerald A.M. Finerman

Research output: Contribution to journalShort surveypeer-review

105 Scopus citations


The purpose of this study was to measure the effects of variation in placement of the femoral tunnel upon knee laxity, graft pretension required to restore normal anterior-posterior (AP) laxity and graft forces following anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction. Two variants in tunnel position were studied: (1) AP position along the medial border of the lateral femoral condyle (at a standard 11 o'clock notch orientation) and (2) orientation along the arc of the femoral notch (o'clock position) at a fixed distance of 6-7 mm anterior to the posterior wall. AP laxity and forces in the native ACL were measured in fresh frozen cadaveric knee specimens during passive knee flexion-extension under the following modes of tibial loading: no external tibial force, anterior tibial force, varus-valgus moment, and internal external tibial torque. One group (15 specimens) was used to determine effects of AP tunnel placement, while a second group (14 specimens) was used to study variations in o'clock position of the femoral tunnel within the femoral notch. A bone-patellar tendon-bone graft was placed into a femoral tunnel centered at a point 6-7 mm anterior to the posterior wall at the 11 o'clock position in the femoral notch. A graft pretension was determined such that AP laxity of the knee at 30 deg of flexion was restored to within 1 mm of normal; this was termed the laxity match pretension. All tests were repeated with a graft in the standard 11 o'clock tunnel, and then with a graft in tunnels placed at other selected positions. Varying placement of the femoral tunnel 1 h clockwise or counterclockwise from the 11 o'clock position did not significantly affect any biomechanical parameter measured in this study, nor did placing the graft 2.5 mm posteriorly within the standard 11 o'clock femoral tunnel. Placing the graft in a tunnel 5.0 mm anterior to the standard 11 o'clock tunnel increased the mean laxity match pretension by 16.8 N (62%) and produced a knee which was on average 1.7 mm more lax than normal at 10 deg of flexion and 4.2 mm less lax at 90 deg. During passive knee flexion-extension testing, mean graft forces with the 5.0 mm anterior tunnel were significantly higher than corresponding means with the standard 11 o'clock tunnel between 40 and 90 deg of flexion for all modes of constant tibial loading. These results indicate that AP positioning of the femoral tunnel at the 11 o'clock position is more critical than o'clock positioning in terms of restoring normal levels of graft force and knee laxity profiles at the time of ACL reconstruction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1016-1024
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Orthopaedic Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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