The natural history of tibial radiolucent lines in a proximally cemented stemmed total knee arthroplasty.
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A total of 207 tibial components in total knee arthroplasty (TKA) have been reviewed at a maximum of 10 years after replacement. Twelve knees developed aseptic femoral loosening and were reviewed separately from the remaining 195. All tibial components were fixed with cement confined to the proximal surface of the implant combined with an uncemented stem. In the 195 TKAs with well-fixed femoral components and (presumably) low wear, 15% of tibiae developed early-onset, nonprogressive partial radiolucent lines (RLLs), typically in relation to preoperative sclerosis. Tibial component vertical migration was measured in 36 components: no migration was detected over the course of 5 years whether or not an RLL was present. There was no case of tibial osteolysis, no tibial component was revised for aseptic loosening, and no implant was radiologically loose. In 12 knees, the femoral component loosened with subsidence exposing peripheral bone that caused severe HDP wear. Tibial RLLs were present in 9, and osteolysis was present in 11 (although the tibial component was actually loose in only 1). This material has been used to study 1) the natural history of RLLs in cemented TKA and 2) the outcome of using cement confined to the proximal part of the tibial interface. We conclude that in low-wear prostheses RLLs are due to a failure to inject cement into sclerotic bone. Such lines are nonprogressive and do not affect fixation. In the presence of severe wear, however, they may provide a portal for the entry of debris into the interface causing progression of the RLL and lysis. Proximal cement plus an uncemented stem furnishes adequate tibial fixation, provided that the HDP wear rate is low.