Knee Surgery & Related Research 2018 Dec; 30(4): 275-283  https://doi.org/10.5792/ksrr.17.073
Open Posterior Approach versus Arthroscopic Suture Fixation for Displaced Posterior Cruciate Ligament Avulsion Fractures: Systematic Review
Jae-Gwang Song1, Kyung-Wook Nha2, and Se-Won Lee3
1Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Suncheon Joongang Hospital, Suncheon, Korea, 2Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Ilsan Paik Hospital, College of Medicine, Inje University College of Medicine, Goyang, Korea, 3Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Yeouido St. Mary’s Hospital, College of Medicine, The Catholic University of Korea, Seoul, Korea
Correspondence to: Se-Won Lee, MD, Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Yeouido St. Mary’s Hospital, College, of Medicine, The Catholic University of Korea, 63-ro 10, Yeongdeungpogu, Seoul 07345, Korea, Tel: +82-2-3779-1068, Fax: +82-2-783-0252, E-mail: ssewon@naver.com
Received: October 3, 2017; Revised: February 28, 2018; Accepted: May 27, 2018; Published online: December 1, 2018.
© Korean Knee Society. All rights reserved.

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/) which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Abstract

Purpose

To compare the clinical outcomes between the open posterior approach and arthroscopic suture fixation for displaced posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) avulsion fractures.

Methods

A literature search was performed on MEDLINE, EMBASE, and the Cochrane Library databases. The inclusion criteria were as follows: papers written in English on displaced PCL avulsion fractures, clinical trial(s) with clear description of surgical technique, adult subjects, a follow-up longer than 12 months and modified Coleman methodology score (CMS) more than 60 points.

Results

Twelve studies were included with a mean CMS value of 72.4 (standard deviation, 7.6). Overall, 134 patients underwent the open posterior approach with a minimum 12-month follow-up, and 174 patients underwent arthroscopic suture fixation. At final follow-up, the range of Lysholm score was 85–100 for the open approach and 80–100 for the arthroscopic approach. Patients who were rated as normal or nearly normal in the International Knee Documentation Committee subjective knee assessment were 92%–100% for the open approach and 90%–100% for the arthroscopic approach. The range of side-to-side difference was 0–5 mm for both approaches.

Conclusions

Both arthroscopic and open methods for the treatment of PCL tibial-side avulsion injuries resulted in comparably good clinical outcomes, radiological healing, and stable knees.

Keywords: Knee, Posterior cruciate ligament, Avulsion, Arthroscopy, Open
Introduction

The posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) is an important structure that helps to maintain the stability of the knee during flexion and rotation. Since the PCL is strong, avulsion fractures at the attachment site of PCL occur commonly. It is generally agreed that avulsion fractures of the PCL should be anatomically reduced and fixed for complete restoration of PCL function1).

In most cases, conservative treatments lead to unsatisfactory results mainly due to functional disability and fracture nonunion2). Many surgeons believe the displaced or unstable tibial avulsion fracture of PCL should be reduced and fixed anatomically through surgeries with various techniques3). Surgical treatments for PCL avulsion fractures of the tibia include arthroscopic repair as well as open reduction and internal fixation. Open reduction and fixation through the traditional posterior approach is technically easier than arthroscopic surgery, does not have requirement for specialized equipment, has a relatively short learning curve4); whereas it has a potential risk of significant soft tissue damage and neurovascular damage, as the tibial attachment of PCL is located in an area difficult to access5). Recently, due to its deep location and the complexity of the adjacent anatomy, minimally invasive arthroscopic techniques are gaining interest6). The additional advantages of the arthroscopic approach are direct visualization of fragment reduction and concomitant intra-articular injuries in the form of meniscal tears; further, osteochondral loose fragments or ligament injuries may be addressed at the time of the operation510). Despite comparable biomechanical properties of open and arthroscopic techniques11), there is a paucity of comparative clinical studies (open vs. arthroscopic) in the literature. The present systematic review was conducted to compare the clinical outcomes between open reduction and screw fixation and arthroscopic suture fixation for displaced tibial PCL avulsion fractures. Our initial hypothesis was that arthroscopic suture fixation would provide superior outcomes with less complications.

Materials and Methods

1. Search Strategy

Two of the authors (JGS and SWL) independently performed comprehensive online literature searches of the MEDLINE, EMBASE, and Cochrane Library databases between May 10, 2016 and May 20, 2016. For each database, search formula was modified individually. Database search terms included “posterior cruciate ligament” OR “PCL” AND “fracture” OR “tibia” OR “avulsion(s)” OR “bone” OR “arthroscopic” OR “open” OR “approach” OR “surgical” OR “fixation”. The same 2 authors independently screened the title and abstract of each returned article and then reviewed the full text of each article that had been selected on the basis of the inclusion and exclusion criteria (Table 1). In the case of two or more studies by the same author, we determined whether the patients were duplicated or not. If duplicated, we included only the study with a longer follow-up period. Reference lists and bibliographies of the selected articles were also reviewed additionally.

2. Quality Assessment

The methodological quality of each of the studies included in the analysis was evaluated by 2 of the authors individually according to the Coleman methodology score12). Each study was assessed for each of the methodology’s 10 criteria, resulting in a final score ranging anywhere from 0 to 100. A perfect score of 100 indicated a study design that largely avoids the influence of chance, various biases, and confounding factors. Each author scored the methodological quality of the studies twice with a 10-day interval between assessments. In the case of disagreement, the 2 authors debated the controversial score until reaching a consensus. To ensure the reliability of reported findings, data were extracted only from studies with ≥60 points Coleman score.

3. Data Abstraction

The studies were evaluated by 2 authors (JGS and SWL) for methodological quality. To extract data from the papers, we used a standardized form including the following items: first author, publication year, publishing journal, study type, demographic factors, sample sizes, and results of research. Data were then extracted and crosschecked for accuracy. Subjects in the studies were divided into 2 treatment groups: those undergoing the open posterior approach and those undergoing arthroscopic fixation. Study data including (1) demographic data of patients (including age and sex distribution), (2) time to operation, (3) associated injuries, (4) surgical approach, (5) fixation method (suture, screw, or any device), and (6) follow-up are summarized in Table 2. The clinical outcome data extracted from studies included (1) overall clinical results, (2) remained instability, and (3) complications, as summarized in Table 3. The clinical outcome measures specifically recorded in all included studies were (1) Lysholm score at final follow-up, (2) International Knee Documentation Committee (IKDC) at final follow-up, (3) posterior draw test on physical examination, and (4) side-to-side difference on KT-2000 at final follow-up.

Results

1. Literature Search

The electronic search initially identified 1,092 articles. Critical application of the inclusion and exclusion criteria subsequently reduced that number to 12; 5 studies on open posterior approach, 5 studies on arthroscopic fixation, and 2 directly comparative studies of the open posterior approach and arthroscopic fixation. The search strategy is outlined in Fig. 1, and an overview of the study characteristics is presented in Table 4.

2. Quality Assessment

The mean modified Coleman methodology score of the included studies was 73.4±8.1 (range, 61 to 89). The mean Coleman methodology score12) for each criterion is shown in Table 5.

3. Data Abstraction

1) Surgical approach and technique
(1) Open posterior approach

Five studies and 2 comparative studies reported the outcomes of patients undergoing the open posterior approach1,3,4,1316). Overall, 134 patients underwent the open posterior approach with a minimum 12-month follow-up. Open posterior approach included the traditional open posterior approach and its modifications.

(2) Direct posterior approach

The traditional open posterior approach was originally described by Abbott and Carpenter4,17,18). It is a direct posterior approach using the interval between the heads of the medial and lateral gastrocnemius muscles, and it requires the identification and protection of the tibial nerve, artery, and vein. However, division of the medial head of the gastrocnemius is commonly recommended to enhance exposure of the PCL avulsion, which could lead to postoperative weakness of this muscle and may unnecessarily increase the morbidity of the operation. The traditional open posterior approach was performed in 2 of the included studies4,14).

Yang et al.4) used this approach in 18 patients including 2 chronic cases. Inoue et al.14) used the direct posterior approach although a modified posteromedial approach, described by Burks and Schaffer19), was also used in the study without specific description of the proportion. Among its modifications, Chen et al.13) suggested that the direct posterior approach under macroendoscopic assistance through a single minimal incision by a posterior midline approach is feasible for reduction of fragments and screw fixation.

(3) Posteromedial approach

The posteromedial approach was introduced by Burks and Schaffer19) because of the complexity of the direct posterior approach and the need for dissection of the neurovascular bundle in the popliteal fossa. An interval between the medial border of the gastrocnemius and the semimembranosus tendon is used to expose the posterior joint capsule. This minimally invasive approach provides satisfactory exposure of the fracture site in a safe, simple, and less time-consuming manner for treatment of PCL injuries. Among the studies included in our analysis, this approach was used by Chiarapattanakom et al.3) and Pardiwala et al.16) (in their open group). It avoids dissection of the neurovascular structures in the popliteal fossa as well, but it does not provide adequate exposure to the lateral base of the PCL and the capsule. The mass of the retracted tissue makes it difficult to place a screw perpendicular to the fracture plane, which could potentially lead to less stable fixation.

(4) Modified posteromedial approach

Other authors used a modified posteromedial approach, which splits the fibers of the medial gastrocnemius muscle to expose the PCL avulsion fracture. The lateral half of the fibers could protect the neurovascular elements in the popliteal space. This approach is anatomic and saves the medial head. Among the included studies, Singer and Halawa15) and Sabat et al.1) (in their open group) used this approach.

(5) Arthroscopic fixation

Five studies and two comparative studies reported the outcomes of the arthroscopic approach1,5,710,16). Overall, 174 patients underwent the arthroscopic approach with a minimum 12-month follow-up.

Even though fracture reduction was done arthroscopically in all studies, each fixation method was different. Zhao et al.7) made a Y-shaped bone tunnel and fixed the pull-out suture with a titanium button. Three articles (including one comparative study) described fixation was achieved using a pull-out suture through double tunnels9,10,16). Gui et al.8) performed pull-out suture fixation through a single tunnel. Huang et al.5) introduced antegrade screw fixation using a PCL guide after arthroscopic fracture reduction. It was selectively performed for patients with a fragment size larger than 20 mm.

4. Clinical Outcomes

1) Lysholm score

Lysholm scores were used for subjective outcomes in 9 studies (4 studies on posterior open approach3,1315), 4 on arthroscopic approach710), and 1 comparative study16)). The scores at final follow-up were analyzed. The range of Lysholm score at final follow up was 85–100 for the open approach and 80–100 for the arthroscopic approach.

2) International Knee Documentation Committee

IKDC evaluation was used to determine subjective outcomes in 9 of the studies (3 studies on posterior open approach3,13,15), 4 on arthroscopic approach5,810), and 2 comparative studies1,16)). The rates of normal and nearly-normal knees at final follow-up were analyzed. The rates were 92%–100% in patients with the open approach and 90%–100% in patients with the arthroscopic approach.

3) KT-2000

The side-to-side differences at final follow up on the KT-2000 were measured in 10 studies (3 studies on posterior open approach3,13,14), 5 on arthroscopic approach5,710), and 2 comparative studies1,16)). At the final follow-up, the range of side-to-side difference was 0–5 mm irrespective of the approach.

4) Complications

There were no neurovascular injuries or compartment syndrome in both groups. There was one case of deep infection in the open approach group4). Limitation of motion was noted in 6 cases in the open approach group1,16) and in 14 cases in the arthroscopic approach group1,5,7,8,16). Four patients in the open approach group experienced reduction loss (2 cases) or metal irritation (2 cases)1,4). One patient in the arthroscopic approach group experienced metal irritation.

Discussion

The most common mechanism underlying PCL avulsion fractures of the tibia in road traffic accidents is dashboard collision in which a direct force is applied to the proximal part of the tibia in an anteriortoposterior direction, with the knee in flexion20,21). If left untreated, the injury leads to secondary joint changes resulting in osteoarthritis2). Fixation methods for avulsion fractures of the PCL at the tibial insertion have been suggested in various series1,35,710,1316). This systematic review described outcomes and complications of the open approach and arthroscopic approach for displaced PCL avulsion fractures.

Two important aspects emerged from this study. First, there were only two direct comparative studies between the open approach and arthroscopic approach for displaced PCL avulsion. The included studies showed significant heterogeneity with various surgical techniques, fixation devices, sizes of fracture fragments, and follow-up periods; therefore, we could not compare the 2 approaches using statistical methods or determine the comparative superiority. Second, all studies on the open approach and arthroscopic approach for displaced PCL tibial avulsion fractures showed satisfactory outcomes, despite significant heterogeneity. Regarding knee outcomes, the postoperative scores at final follow-up were analyzed. The range of Lysholm score at final follow up was to 85–100 for the open approach and 80–100 for the arthroscopic approach. There was no noticeable difference between the 2 groups in regards to postoperative Lysholm scores. The rates of normal and nearly-normal knees at final follow-up were 92%–100% in patients with the open approach and 90%–100% in patients with the arthroscopic approach in the IKDC subjective knee assessment at final follow-up. All studies on the open approach and arthroscopic approach for displaced PCL tibial avulsion fractures showed satisfactory outcomes.

The comparison of the complication rates between open and arthroscopic treatments showed that the open procedures produce fairly superior results. Four patients in the open approach group experienced reduction loss (2 cases) and metal irritation (2 cases)1,4). One patient in the arthroscopic approach group experienced metal irritation7). There was one case of deep infection in the open approach group4). There were no neurovascular injuries or cases of compartment syndrome in both groups. Limitation of motion was the main complication for the open posterior approach group and arthroscopic approach group. It was noted in 6 cases in the open approach group1,16) and in 14 cases in the arthroscopic group1,5,7,8,16), more frequently in the arthroscopic approach group. The number of patients experiencing arthrofibrosis in the open approach group was less than half the number in the arthroscopic approach group. This result is contrary to our expectation and those reported in the 2 comparative studies where there were 3 cases of arthrofibrosis in the open posterior approach group and 1 case of arthrofibrosis in the arthroscopic group. This is presumably due to the fact that the open posterior approach exposes the avulsion fracture and fixes only the fracture fragment without the surrounding tissue being trapped.

Limitations of this systematic review should be noted. First, no randomized controlled trial was included in the analysis. Most articles were written with a focus on surgical techniques and reported the outcomes of a retrospective series. Moreover, the included studies showed significant heterogeneity, with various surgical techniques, graft types, and follow-up periods; therefore, we could not compare the 2 techniques using statistical methods or determine which surgical procedure was better. Second, there were only two studies directly comparing outcomes of the open posterior approach and arthroscopic fixation. Although single-arm case series were included to support the comparative studies, there is possibility that the pooled analyses are biased. Third, there was significant heterogeneity among operative techniques; to address the heterogeneity, we categorized the techniques. Fourth, all but one Egyptian paper are articles from Asian countries; articles from Europe or America are not included, and thus the reported results might not be generalized to other races.

Conclusions

All studies on the open posterior approach and arthroscopic fixation for displaced PCL avulsion fractures showed satisfactory outcomes, despite significant heterogeneity among studies with various surgical techniques, fixation devices, sizes of fracture fragments, and follow-up periods.

Acknowledgments

We thank Na-Jin Kim (Medical Librarian; Medical Library, The Catholic University of Korea, Seoul, Korea) for her support with the literature search.

Conflict of Interest

No potential conflict of interest relevant to this article was reported.

Figures
Fig. 1. Flowchart of selection process.
Tables

Inclusion and Exclusion Criteria

Inclusion criteriaExclusion criteria
Studies with patients who received isolated fixation or suturing for displaced posterior cruciate ligament tibial avulsion using arthroscopic/open approach
Minimum follow-up period, 1 year
Between level I and level IV studies
Human in vivo study
Articles written in English
Studies with patients with:
  • (1) Dislocated knee with posterior cruciate ligament tibial avulsion

  • (2) A history of previous surgery

  • (3) Conservative treatment

  • (4) Nonunion or delayed union of tibial avulsion of posterior cruciate ligament

Sample size less than 5 patients
Lack of description of outcomes measurement
Level V evidence (case report, technical note, letter to editor), biomechanical reports, and review articles
Nonhuman subjects
Article written in language other than English

Patients’ Demographic Information and Surgical Procedure

StudyNo. of patientsSex (M/F)Mean age (yr)Time to operation (day)Associated injuriesOperative time (min)Surgical approachFixation devicefragment sizeFollow-up (mo)
Posterior open approach
 Singer and Halawa15)1616/034.58Excluded32 (25–40)Modified posteromedial approach (medial head of gastrocnemius was split)Pull out suture using Ethibond18 (12–28)
 Chen et al.13)2415/935.82 to 7Injuries in other ligaments and menisci (6)52.5Minimally invasive posterior approach (macroendoscopic technique)Cannulated screw fixation8–12 mm: 7
12–26 mm: 11
Comminuted fracture with two fragments over 8 mm
33.6 (24–60)
 Inoue et al.14)16 (excluding PCL injuries without bony involvement)6/25447.2 days in group O; 8.3 days in group NExcludedN/ATraditional posterior approach and posteromedial approach (the proportion was not presented)Cannulated cancellous screws with a washerThe size of the fragments was 1.5×1.5 cm or greater.36 (24–96)
 Yang et al.4)16 (including 2 chronic cases)10/628<2 weeks in 14; >4 weeks in 2LCL injury (1), ACL injury (1), medial meniscus injury (1)N/ATraditional posterior approach14: malleolar screw 2: pull out screw due to small fragment sizeN/A, but it was recorded that 2/16 was fixed with pullout suture due to small fragment size38 (24–58)
 Chiarapattanakom et al.3)106/43010ExcludedN/APosteromedial approachUnicortical cancellous screw fixation. If fragment size was small, spike washer was added.N/A40 (22–58)
Arthroscopic approach
 Zhao et al.7)2921/83212Excluded55 (45–75)Pullout suture using Y-shaped bone tunnel and titanium button2 No. 6 polyester suturesN/A32 (24–41)
 Huang et al.5)1813/5284.8N/A35 (21–55)Anterior arthroscopy assisted fixation guided with a tibial PCL guideOne or two antegrade screwsInclusion: the fracture fragment size was greater than 20 mm34 (24–49)
 Gui et al.8)2819/935.33.4LCL (1), MM (4), LM (4), MCL (1)67 (45–90)Pullout suture using single tunnelPDS20 single fragment (mean, 16 mm)
8 comminution (largest fragment, <10 mm)
40 (26–61)
 Chen et al.9)3624/1235.65LM (2), MM (3), MCL (2), LCL (2)N/APullout suture using double tunnelNo. 5 EthibondVarious fragmentation sizes (range, 10×6×5 to 30×32×15 mm; mean, 15×17×9 mm)36 (24–45)
 Chen et al.10)2220/23713N/A70.5Pullout suture using double tunnelNo. 5 EthibondN/A24.5 (19–28)
Comparative study
 Sabat et al.1)
  Open2725/228.46.2MCL (2), LCL (2)N/AModified posteromedial approach (medial head of gastrocnemius was split)Partial threaded cannlated screw and washerN/A12
  Arthroscopic2018/226.68.4MCL (1), LCL (1), LM (1), MM (2), ACL (6)N/ASingle tunnel pullout sutureNo. 2 Orthocord, tied over suture diskN/A12
 Pardiwala et al.16)
  Open25N/AN/AN/AN/AN/APosteromedial approach4 mm cannulated cancellous screw and washer or No. 5 Ethibond (fragment size: small or comminuted)N/A39 (24–58)
  Arthroscopic25N/AN/AN/AN/AN/APullout suture using double tunnelNo. 5 Ethibond or No. 2 FiberwireN/A39 (24–58)

Values are presented as mean (range or standard deviation).

PCL: posterior cruciate ligament, N/A: not available, LCL: lateral collateral ligament, MM: medial meniscus, LM: lateral meniscus, MCL: medial collateral ligament, ACL: anterior cruciate ligament.

Overall Clinical Outcomes and Complications in Studies

StudyNo. of patientsIKDCLysholmPostop draw testStress X-rayKTComplicationEtc.





PreopPostopPreopPostopPreopPostopPreopPostopPreopPostop
Open
 Singer and Halawa15)16Grade A: 1392–100Grade 2: 10Grade 1: 1
Grade B: 3Grade 3: 6Negative: 15
Chen et al.13)24Grade A: 1743.895.3Grade 1: 10.6–4.0
Grade B: 6Negative: 23
Grade C: 1
 Inoue et al.14)1685–1000–5
 Yang et al.4)16Deep infection: 1Hughston criteria (good: 12, fair: 4)
Screw loosening: 1
 Charapattanakom et al.3)10Grade A: 285–1000.4–1.0
Grade B: 8
Arthroscopic
 Zhao et al.7)2993–100Grade 1: 10–4LOM: 6
Negative: 28Metal irritation: 1
 Huang et al.5)18Grade A: 160–5LOM: 2
Grade B: 2
 Gui et al.8)24Grade A: 2092–100Grade 1: 10–3LOM: 4
Grade B: 4Negative: 23
 Chen et al.9)36Grade A: 3380–1000–3
Grade B: 33
Grade C: 3
 Chen et al.10)22Grade A: 2185–96Negative: 220–2
Grade B: 1
Comparative
 Sabat et al.1)
  Open27Grade A: 250–4LOM: 3
Grade B: 25Revision: 1
Grade C: 2Remvoal operation due to irritation: 2
  Arthroscopic20Grade A: 180–4LOM: 1
Grade B: 18
Grade C: 2
 Pardiwala et al.16)
  Open25Grade A: 21Negative :183.9LOM: 3
Grade B : 4Grade 1: 5
Grade 2: 2
  Arthroscopic25Grade A: 22Negative : 174.1LOM: 1
Grade B: 3Grade 1: 7
Grade 2: 1

IKDC: International Knee Documentation Committee, Postop: Postoperative, Preop: preoperative, LOM: limitation of motion.

Characteristics of Included Studies

StudyPublished yearLocation (contury, city)Study typeLevel of evidenceCritical appraisal
Open approach
 Singer and Halla15)2015Egypt, BenhaRetrospective case seriesIV
 Chen et al.13)2012China, ZhangzhouRetrospective case seriesIV
 Inoue et al.14)2004Japan, SapporoProspective comparative studyIIComparative study between occult midsubstance injury of PCL and no midsubstance injury
 Yang et al.4)2003Taiwan, TaoyuanRetrospective case seriesIV
 Charapattanakom et al.3)2009Thailand, BangkokRetrospective case seriesIV
Arthroscopic approach
 Zhao et al.7)2006China, ShanghaiRetrospective case seriesIV
 Huang et al.5)2015China, ChongqingRetrospective case seriesIV
 Gui et al.8)2009China, NanjingRetrospective case seriesIV
 Chen et al.9)2012Taiwan, TaoyuanTherapeutic case seriesIV
 Chen et al.10)2015China, WuhanRetrospective case seriesIV
Comparative study
 Sabat et al.1)2016India, New DelhiRetrospective comparative seriesIIIComparative study between open vs. arthroscopic
 Pardiwala et al.16)2012IndiaProspective randomised comparative seriesII

PCL: posterior cruciate ligament.

Overall Coleman Methodology Score for Each Criterion

Criteria (maximal score)OpenArthroscopicComparative



Singer and Halawa15)Chen et al.13)Inoue et al.14)Yang et al.4)Charapattanakom et al.3)Zhao et al.7)Huang et al.5)Gui et al.8)Chen et al.9)Chen et al.10)Sabat et al.1)Pardiwala et al.16)
Part A
 Study size (10)044004044444
 Mean follow-up (5)255555555525
 No. of procedures (10)101010101010101010101010
 Type of study (15)10010000100100010
 Diagnostic certainty (5)555555555555
 Surgery description (5)555555555555
 Rehabilitation description (10)101010101010101010101010
Part B
 Outcome criteria (10)101010101010101010101010
 Procedure for outcomes (15)36116116111115111111
 Selection process (15)151010101213101215151515
Total score706580616868767289757285
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