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The associations between indices of patellofemoral geometry and knee pain and patella cartilage volume: a cross-sectional study.

BACKGROUND: Whilst patellofemoral pain is one of the most common musculoskeletal disorders presenting to orthopaedic clinics, sports clinics, and general practices, factors contributing to its development in the absence of a defined arthropathy, such as osteoarthritis (OA), are unclear.The aim of this cross-sectional study was to describe the relationships between parameters of patellofemoral geometry (patella inclination, sulcus angle and patella height) and knee pain and patella cartilage volume.

METHODS: 240 community-based adults aged 25-60 years were recruited to take part in a study of obesity and musculoskeletal health. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the dominant knee was used to determine the lateral condyle-patella angle, sulcus angle, and Insall-Salvati ratio, as well as patella cartilage and bone volumes. Pain was assessed by the Western Ontario and McMaster University Osteoarthritis Index (WOMAC) VA pain subscale.

RESULTS: Increased lateral condyle-patella angle (increased medial patella inclination) was associated with a reduction in WOMAC pain score (Regression coefficient -1.57, 95% CI -3.05, -0.09) and increased medial patella cartilage volume (Regression coefficient 51.38 mm3, 95% CI 1.68, 101.08 mm3). Higher riding patella as indicated by increased Insall-Salvati ratio was associated with decreased medial patella cartilage volume (Regression coefficient -3187 mm3, 95% CI -5510, -864 mm3). There was a trend for increased lateral patella cartilage volume associated with increased (shallower) sulcus angle (Regression coefficient 43.27 mm3, 95% CI -2.43, 88.98 mm3).

CONCLUSION: These results suggest both symptomatic and structural benefits associated with a more medially inclined patella while a high-riding patella may be detrimental to patella cartilage. This provides additional theoretical support for the current use of corrective strategies for patella malalignment that are aimed at medial patella translation, although longitudinal studies will be needed to further substantiate this.

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