How Much Clinical and Functional Impairment do Children Treated With Knee Rotationplasty Experience in Adulthood?

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Background: Rotationplasty may be indicated for some children with osteosarcoma in the distal femur or proximal tibia; in properly selected patients, it may offer functional advantages over transfemoral amputation and more durable results than a prosthesis. The clinical and functional outcomes reported for this procedure generally have been limited to studies with a mean followup of approximately 8 years in terms of Musculoskeletal Tumor Society Score (MSTS), physical examination, and gait analysis. However, the effects of residual thigh-shank length on gait have not been explored to our knowledge. Questions/purposes: We asked: (1) Do differences in the length of the surgically treated residual thigh-shank relative to the contralateral thigh result in altered gait patterns? (2) What were the clinical and functional impairments and radiographic findings of patients who underwent rotationplasty and who survived to adulthood? (3) Do gait analysis findings in adults differ from previously reported findings in children in terms of relevant gait parameters such as maximal ground reaction forces and sagittal knee angles? Methods: From January 1986 to December 2009, 254 children (age range, 3–14 years) affected by high-grade bone sarcomas located in the distal half of the femur were surgically treated at our institute. Forty-two of these patients (16.5%) underwent rotationplasty. During this period, three adolescents older than 15 years were treated by rotationplasty owing to the tumor volume and extracompartmental involvement. In total, 45 patients underwent rotationplasty. From January 1986 to December 2000, rotationplasty generally was the preferred treatment for patients younger than 9 years with a high-grade bone sarcoma calling for an intra- or extraarticular resection of the distal femur, as long as the sciatic nerve could be spared. From January 2001, the procedure was not used as often. Of the 45 patients who underwent a rotationplasty, 14 died of disease at a mean of 37 months (31%); 31 patients (69%) were survivors at the time the study was done, 29 of whom were continuously disease free (64%) and two had no evidence of disease after a pulmonary metastasectomy (5%). These 31 patients were invited to participate in the study, and 25 of the 31 agreed to participate. There were 15 males and 10 females with a mean age of 23.8 years (SD, 7.5 years) and mean followup of 15 years (SD, 5.8 years). Clinical assessment included the MSTS score (total score ranges between 0 and 30 with 0 indicating poor results and 30 indicating good results), obtained by clinical assessment and patient interview, measurements of the residual thigh-shank length and of the contralateral thigh, of the lengths of the surgically treated and contralateral feet, and of active ROM of the rotated and contralateral ankles. Of the 25 patients, 22 (88%) agreed to have lower limb radiographs and 16 (64%) agreed to perform gait analysis. Results: The residual thigh-shank was, on average, 5.8% longer than the contralateral thigh. Differences in the length of the residual thigh-shank relative to the contralateral thigh resulted in altered gait patterns. Patients with longer residual thigh-shank length had greater pseudoknee flexion during stance and swing. Patients with shorter residual thigh-shank length walked with a gait similar to that of controls. The mean MSTS score was 25 (SD, 2). With respect to the contralateral foot, the surgically treated foot was 10% shorter, the talus 11% shorter in the long axis and 7.6% in the short axis and the calcaneus was 2.7% shorter in the long axis and 8.6% in the short axis. Radiologic arthritis was present in most patients at the tibiotalar, subtalar, and talonavicular joints. As adults, our patients showed improved gait parameters compared with previously reported findings for children undergoing rotationplasty. Vertical ground reaction force during midstance was reduced by 6% and knee ROM during the gait cycle was increased by 24.6°. Conclusions: The residual thigh-shank length influences the gait performance, such that patients with smaller discrepancies between the surgically treated and contralateral sides had the best walking performance. The MSTS score at a mean of 15 years after knee rotationplasty confirmed the results reported in the shorter-term for function and pain. The foot on the surgically treated side was smaller than the contralateral foot, and degenerative changes were present, which could contribute to impaired function. Gait performance, in terms of ground reaction forces and knee ROM, was improved in our adult patients although a difference in loading was still present between the surgically treated and contralateral limbs. Based on these findings, surgeons should endeavor to have the center axis of rotation of the contralateral knee and pseudoknee at skeletal maturity. An excessive residual thigh-shank length in adult patients could require contralateral lengthening to improve functional results. Level of Evidence: Level IV, therapeutic study.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalClinical Orthopaedics and Related Research
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Jan 11 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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