When math meets surgery: how to improve femoral interference screw alignment in ACL reconstruction. A cadaveric study

A Marmotti, A Biondi, E Bellato, L Mangiavini, G Ferrero, F Dettoni, D Bonasia, G M Peretti, D Colombero, G Agati, F Castoldi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Transtibial femoral tunnel drilling is still an alternative technique in ACL reconstruction. Femoral interference screw divergence is a potential pitfall associated with transtibial tunnel technique, as angles greater than 15° jeopardize graft fixation. Our mathematical model theorizes the proper degrees of knee flexion during femoral screw insertion and the correct screwdriver position to obtain a minimal divergence of the screw in the femoral tunnel. The cadaveric study confirms our method. Mathematical model: using rototranslation matrices, a correlation is demonstrated between the ACLtibial- guide angle, the knee flexion, and the screwdriver position. A theoretical minimal divergence between femoral interference screw and the femoral tunnel is obtainable following these assumptions: 1) knee hyperflexion during femoral screw insertion is obtained adding a flexion corresponding to the ACL-tibial-guide angle to the flexion while drilling the femoral tunnel; 2) screwdriver position (through the AM portal) is kept parallel to tibial plateau at a rotation of 15° medial to tibial sagittal plane. Cadaveric study: 24 cadaver knees were used. The transtibial tunnel was drilled with an 8 mm drill bit with the help of an ACL tibial guide set at 55°. To simulate femoral tunnel direction, a 2.4 mm K. wire was drilled through the femur with a transtibial 7 mm offset femoral drill guide. To simulate the femoral screw direction, a second 2.4 mm K. wire was drilled from the femoral entry point of the first wire through the femur, with a cannulated screwdriver. Screwdriver direction and knee flexion during the simulation were obtained following two different methods: GROUP A (mathematical model group, 12 knees), screwdriver direction and knee flexion were calculated following the mathematical model; in GROUP B (control group, 12 knees), knee hyperflexion and screwdriver medialization were manually obtained by a senior surgeon. The divergence between the femoral interference screw and the femoral tunnel was identified as the angle formed by the two wires, measured on the plane formed by the direction of the wires. Mean divergence angles between the K. wires were significantly different (p< 0.05) between the groups: GROUP 1 (mathematical rule): 7.25° (SD 2.2); GROUP 2 (free-hand technique): 17.3° (SD 2.9). Our study shows that a minimal divergence between the femoral tunnel and the screwdriver can be achieved simply by following a mathematical rule for correct intraoperative knee flexion and screwdriver position without the need for any specialized instrumentation. Namely, during femoral interference screw insertion through the anteromedial portal: 1) the correct knee flexion is the sum between the knee flexion angle while drilling the transtibial femoral tunnel AND the ACL tibial guide angle used during tibial tunnel drilling; 2) Correct screwdriver position is parallel to the tibial plateau, engaging the femoral tunnel with a position of 15° medial to tibial sagittal plane. This simple concept has clinical relevance in helping the surgeons in obtaining an optimal alignment between the femoral tunnel and the femoral interference screw during transtibial ACL reconstruction. Furthermore, following the assumptions of this study, a starting knee flexion angle around 70° during femoral tunnel drilling seems preferable for ACL reconstruction when the transtibial tunnel technique is used. Indeed, because ACL-tibial-guide angles range commonly from 50° to 60° and in vivo, the maximal intraoperative knee flexion attainable is 130°, a starting knee flexion around 70° is optimal to allows for adding flexion angles up to 60° before reaching the physiological limit value of 130°.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)377-391. Congress of the Italian Orthopaedic Research Society
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Biological Regulators and Homeostatic Agents
Issue number4 Suppl. 3
Publication statusPublished - Dec 3 2020


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