Restricted range of motion and excessive laxity are both potential complications of total knee arthroplasty (TKA). During TKA surgery, the surgeon is frequently faced with the question of how tightly to implant the prosthesis. The most common method of altering implantation tightness is to vary the thickness of the polyethylene inlay after the bone cuts have been made and the trial components inserted. We have sought to quantify how altering the polyethylene thickness may affect post-operative soft tissue tension for a range of prosthetic designs.Four different prosthetic designs were implanted into fresh-frozen cadaveric knee joints. All four designs were implanted in the standard manner, with a 100 Newton distraction force used to set soft tissue balance. The tibiofemoral force was then recorded at 15 degrees intervals throughout the passive flexion range. After the standard implantation of each prosthesis, the tibial component was raised or lowered to mimic increasing and decreasing the polyethylene thickness by 2 mm and the force measurements repeated.Tibiofemoral force in extension correlated with implantation tightness for all prosthesis designs. Between 15 degrees and 90 degrees of knee flexion, all four designs were insensitive to changes in implantation tightness. Beyond 90 degrees the effect was more notable in rotating platform mobile-bearing and cruciate-retaining prostheses than in posterior-stabilised mobile-bearing designs.The findings of this research may be useful in assisting surgical decision-making during the implantation of TKA prostheses. (C) 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.