Arthroscopic Posterior Capsular Release Effectively Reduces Pain and Restores Terminal Knee Extension in Cases of Recalcitrant Flexion Contracture

Anna K. Reinholz, Bryant M. Song, Ryan R. Wilbur, Bruce A. Levy, Kelechi R. Okoroha, Christopher L. Camp, Aaron J. Krych

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: To 1) evaluate the clinical efficacy of arthroscopic posterior capsular release for improving range of motion (ROM) in cases of recalcitrant flexion contracture and 2) determine patient-reported outcomes (PROs) postoperatively. Methods: Retrospective chart review was performed to identify patients who underwent arthroscopic posterior capsular release due to persistent extension deficit of the knee despite comprehensive nonoperative physical therapy between 2008 and 2021. Knee ROM and PROs (International Knee Documentation Committee [IKDC], Tegner, and visual analog scale [VAS]) were collected at final follow-up. Results: Overall, 22 patients were included with a median age of 37 years (interquartile range [IQR]: 20.5-44.3). Of these, 8 (36%) were male and 14 (64%) were female, and average follow-up was 3.7 ± 3.3 years. The most common etiology was knee flexion contracture after anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction (59%). All patients failed a minimum of 3 months of nonoperative management. Prior to operative intervention, 100% of patients received physical therapy, 64% received extension knee bracing or casting, and 36% received corticosteroid injection. Median preoperative extension was 15° (IQR: 10-25) compared to 2° (IQR: 0-5) postoperatively (P < .001). At final follow-up, median extension was 0° (IQR: 0-3.5). Postoperative VAS pain scores at rest (2 vs 0; P = .001) and with use (5 vs 1.8; P = .017) improved at final contact, and most (94%) patients reported maintaining their extension ROM. Patients with ACL-related extension deficit reported better IKDC (81 vs 51.3; P = .008), Tegner (5.8 vs 3.6; P = .007), and VAS pain scores (rest: 0.2 vs 1.8; P = .008; use: 1.3 vs 5; P = .004) compared to other etiologies. Conclusion: Arthroscopic posterior capsular release for recalcitrant flexion contracture provides an effective means for reducing pain and restoring terminal extension. The improvement in extension postoperatively was maintained for most (94%) patients at final follow-up with a 14% reoperation rate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e1409-e1415
JournalArthroscopy, Sports Medicine, and Rehabilitation
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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