[Study of the posterior cruciate ligament using a 3D computer model: ligament biometry during flexion, application to surgical replacement of the ligament]

Published online: Dec 27 1999

S Boisgard, J P Levai, K Saidane, B Geiger, and B Landjerit.

Service d'Orthopédie I, Hôpital G. Montpied, C.H.U. Clermont-Ferrand, France.


We have developed a 3D computed model of the knee joint, constructed from MRI acquisitions in a living individual. We have used this model to perform an anatomic and biometric study of the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) during flexion, and an assessment of the optimal location for an intraarticular graft. The method used a 3D computed model constructed from MRI acquisitions during knee flexion (0 to 75 degrees). The range of motion was limited by a positioning device. We took 13 acquisitions from 0 to 75 degrees of flexion. Each acquisition consisted of 21 sagittal cross sections of 3 mm slice thickness. We used the Delaunay reconstruction to obtain a 3D geometric model. A matching process to fix one part of the articulation during the movement, allows for the kinematic analysis of the tibia relative to the fixed femur. This model allows to follow the displacement of a bone point during knee flexion. Knowing the relative displacement of the bone insertions of the ligament, it may be possible to determine the length of the PCL and its bands, to evaluate the length variation during movement, and to determine the optimal location for the insertion of an intraarticular graft, that would lead to the least stretch during flexion. It was found that the mean length of the PCL was 30.2 mm, with the posterior band being 30% longer than the anterior band. During flexion the posterior band increases its length by 10% at 50 degrees flexion, and by 20% at 75 degrees flexion. The anterior band stretches more, to reach 40% elongation at 75 degrees flexion. The best position for insertion of a graft seems to be in the posterolateral portion of the anatomic tibial insertion, and posterior to the anatomic femoral insertion. This method confirms the data in the literature, states precisely the length of the different bands of the PCL, and specifies the points of insertion for a graft, which lead to the least variation in length during flexion.