Individualizing the tibial tubercle to trochlear groove distance to patient specific anatomy improves sensitivity for recurrent instability

Mark J. Heidenreich, Thomas L. Sanders, Mario Hevesi, Nicholas R. Johnson, Isabella T. Wu, Christopher L. Camp, Diane L. Dahm, Aaron J. Krych

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Purpose: An initial episode of patellar instability poses a treatment challenge given the absence of a valid, reproducible, and universally applicable predictor of recurrence. Recently, a series of patellar instability ratios (PIRs) were described. Each ratio consisted of the traditional tibial tubercle to trochlear groove (TT-TG) distance normalized to patient-specific measures. The purpose of this study was to investigate the reliability and validity of these novel measures. Methods: Eighty-seven patients experiencing a first-time lateral patellar dislocation were identified in a retrospective manner. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies obtained at the time of injury were reviewed. The TT-TG distance, patellar width (PW), trochlear width (TW), patellar length (PL), and trochlear length (TL) were obtained by two observers in a blinded, randomized fashion. Measurement reliability was assessed using intra-class correlation coefficients (ICCs). Patients were divided into those having a single dislocation (Group 1) and those experiencing recurrent instability (Group 2). The ability of the TT-TG distance and each PIR to predict recurrent instability was assessed by calculating odds ratios (ORs) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs). Sensitivity and specificity were also calculated for each measure. Results: Excellent inter-rater agreement was observed with ICCs > 0.75 for all patellofemoral joint measurements obtained on MRI. The TT-TG distance alone was predictive of recurrent patellar instability with an OR of 8.9 (p < 0.001). However, the isolated TT-TG distance had the lowest sensitivity at 25.6%. Among ratios, a TT-TG/PL ≥ 0.5 was the most predictive of recurrent instability with an ORs of 6.1 (p = < 0.001). A TT-TG/TL ≥ 0.8 was also predictive of recurrence (OR 4.9, p = 0.027) and had the highest sensitivity of any measure at 94.9%. Conclusion: The results of the current study support the reproducibility and predictive ability of PIRs. While a TT-TG ≥ 20 mm was the strongest predictor of recurrent patellar instability, it was a relatively insensitive measure. Sensitivity may be improved by normalizing the TT-TG distance to patient-specific axial and sagittal plane patellofemoral measurements on MRI. Ultimately, PIRs are reproducible measures that may serve as an additional tool when clinically assessing the unstable patellofemoral joint. Level of evidence: III.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2858-2864
Number of pages7
JournalKnee Surgery, Sports Traumatology, Arthroscopy
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2018


  • Patellar instability
  • Patellar instability ratio
  • Tibial tubercle to trochlear groove distance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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