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J Bone Joint Surg Br. 1997 Nov;79(6):1019-23.

Length and torsion of the lower limb.

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University of Ulm, Germany.


Corrective osteotomies are often planned and performed on the basis of normal anatomical proportions. We have evaluated the length and torsion of the segments of the lower limb in normal individuals, to analyse the differences between left and right sides, and to provide tolerance figures for both length and torsion. We used CT on 355 adult patients and measured length and torsion by the Ulm method. We excluded all patients with evidence of trauma, infection, tumour or any congenital disorder. The mean length of 511 femora was 46.3 +/- 6.4 cm (+/-2SD) and of 513 tibiae 36.9 +/- 5.6 cm; the mean total length of 378 lower limbs was 83.2 +/- 11.4 cm with a tibiofemoral ratio of 1 to 1.26 +/- 0.1. The 99th percentile level for length difference in 178 paired femora was 1.2 cm, in 171 paired tibiae 1.0 cm and in 60 paired lower limbs 1.4 cm. In 505 femora the mean internal torsion was 24.1 +/- 17.4 degrees, and in 504 tibiae the mean external torsion was 34.9 +/- 15.9 degrees. For 352 lower limbs the mean external torsion was 9.8 +/- 11.4 degrees. The mean torsion angle of right and left femora in individuals did not differ significantly, but mean tibial torsion showed a significant difference between right (36.46 degrees of external torsion) and left sides (33.07 degrees of external torsion). For the whole legs torsion on the left was 7.5 +/- 18.2 degrees and 11.8 +/- 18.8 degrees, respectively (p < 0.001). There was a trend to greater internal torsion in femora in association with an increased external torsion in tibiae, but we found no correlation. The 99th percentile value for the difference in 172 paired femora was 13 degrees; in 176 pairs of tibiae it was 14.3 degrees and for 60 paired lower limbs 15.6 degrees. These results will help to plan corrective osteotomies in the lower limbs, and we have re-evaluated the mathematical limits of differences in length and torsion.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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