Assessing patellar instability: Relating tibial tubercle trochlear groove distance to patient specific anatomy

Christopher L. Camp, Mark Heidenreich, Diane L. Dahm, Michael J. Stuart, Bruce A. Levy, Aaron John Krych

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review


Objectives: Patients with patellar instability and tibial tubercle to trochlear groove (TT-TG) distances ≥ 20 mm are often considered to have pathologic lateralization of the tibial tubercle (TT) relative to the femoral trochlea and may be candidates for TT realignment surgery. Although this variable has proven valuable in predicting risk of recurrent dislocations, the measure is limited in that it is not individualized to the patient and does not consider patient size, bony morphology, or patellofemoral mechanics. The purpose of this study was to develop a Patellar Instability Ratio (PIR) that predicts the risk of recurrent instability based on the TT-TG distance relative to patient specific anatomy. Methods: Fifty-nine patients with a clinical diagnosis of patellar instability were included in the study. A number of measures were calculated on MRI by two observers (one staff orthopedic surgeon and one senior resident) in a blinded and randomized fashion. Variables analyzed included: TT-TG, tibial tubercle to posterior cruciate ligament distance (TT-PCL), sagittal patellar length (PL), sagittal trochlear length (TL), axial patellar width (PW), axial trochlear width (TW), sagittal patellofemoral engagement (SPE; SPE=TL/PL) and axial patellofemoral engagement (APE; APE=PW/TW). Patients were divided into two groups: those with ≤ 1 dislocation and those with ≥ 2 dislocations. Using these groups, the ability of TT-TG, TT-PCL, and 12 different ratios with cut-off values to predict recurrent instability was assessed by calculating odds ratios (OR), C-statistics, sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value (PPV) and negative predictive value (NPV) for each of the ratios. P values < 0.05 were considered significant. Results: Mean follow up was 6.6 years. Twelve patients (20%) did not experience recurrent instability while 47 (80%) sustained two or more dislocations during the study period. Pathologic TT-TG (≥ 20 mm) was predictive of recurrent instability with an OR of 5.38 (p=0.29). The highest OR’s for recurrent instability were noted for TT-TG/PW ≥ 0.40 (OR > 7.37, p=0.02) and TT-TG/TW ≥ 0.5 (OR 8.88, p=0.04)(Table 1). PW was defined as the largest medial to lateral width of the articular surface of the patella. TW is defined as the largest articular width of the trochlea that is articulating with the patella and can be conceptualized as the “jump distance” that must be overcome for the patella to dislocate. The sensitivity and specificity of TTTG/ PW ratio ≥ 0.40 was 61% and 83% and that of TT-TG/TW ≥ 0.50 was 59% and 92%, respectively. PPV for TT-TG/PW ≥ 0.40 was 94% while that of TT-TG/TW ≥ 0.49 was 97%. Conclusion: Two distinct PIR (TT-TG/PW and TT-TG/TW) have been identified that predict recurrent patellar instability more accurately than TT-TG ≥ 20 mm with PPV’s ≥ 94% and OR’s > 7 for both measures. These ratios take into consideration the TT-TG relative to patient specific size and anatomy. Further research is needed to determine if patients with increased PIR benefit from TT osteotomy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalOrthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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