In vivo contact areas of the knee in patients with patellar subluxation

S. Hinterwimmer, M. Gotthardt, R. von Eisenhart-Rothe, S. Sauerland, M. Siebert, T. Vogl, F. Eckstein and H. Graichen

Research Group for Kinematics and Biomechanics, Department of Orthopedic Surgery, University of Frankfurt, Germany.
Oct, 2005



Ex vivo studies have suggested that cartilage contact areas and pressure are of high clinical relevance in the etiology of osteoarthritis in patients with patellar subluxation. The aims of this study were therefore to validate in vivo measurements of contact areas with 3D open magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and to study knee joint contact areas in patients with patellar subluxation at different angles of knee flexion in comparison with healthy subjects.3D-MRI data sets of 12 healthy volunteers and eight patients with patellar subluxation were acquired using a standard clinical (1.5 T) and an open (0.2 T) MRI scanner. We compared femoro-patellar and femoro-tibial contact areas obtained with two different sequences from open MRI [dual-echo-steady-state (DESS) and fast-low-angle-shot (FLASH) sequences] with those derived from standard clinical 1.5 T MRI. We then analyzed differences in joint contact areas between healthy subjects and patients with patellar subluxation at 0 degree, 30 degrees, and 90 degrees of knee flexion using open MRI.The correlation of the size of contact areas from open MRI with standard clinical MRI data ranged from r = 0.52 to 0.92. Open-MRI DESS displayed a smaller overestimation of joint contact areas (+21\% in the femoro-patellar, +12\% in the medial femoro-tibial, and +19\% in the lateral femoro-tibial compartment) than FLASH (+40\%, +37\%, +30\%, respectively). The femoro-patellar contact areas in patients were significantly reduced in comparison with healthy subjects (-47\% at 0 degree, -56\% at 30 degrees, and -42\% at 90 degrees of flexion; all p < 0.01), whereas no significant difference was observed in femoro-tibial contact areas.Open MRI allows one to quantify joint contact areas of the knee with reasonable accuracy, if an adequate pulse sequence is applied. The technique permits one to clearly identify differences between patients with patellar subluxation and healthy subjects at different flexion angles, demonstrating a significant reduction and lateralization of contact areas in patients. In the future, application of this in vivo technique is of particular interest for monitoring the efficacy of different types of surgical and conservative treatment options for patellar subluxation.