Original Article| Volume 39, ISSUE 6, P1493-1501.e2, June 2023

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A More Posterior Tibial Tubercle (Decreased Sagittal Tibial Tubercle–Trochlear Groove Distance) Is Significantly Associated With Patellofemoral Joint Degenerative Cartilage Change: A Deep Learning Analysis

Published:December 26, 2022DOI:


      To perform patellofemoral joint (PFJ) geometric measurements on knee magnetic resonance imaging scans and determine their relations with chondral lesions in a multicenter cohort using deep learning.


      The sagittal tibial tubercle–trochlear groove (sTTTG) distance, tibial tubercle–trochlear groove distance, trochlear sulcus angle, trochlear depth, Caton-Deschamps Index (CDI), and flexion angle were measured by use of deep learning–generated segmentations on a subset of the Osteoarthritis Initiative study with radiologist-graded PFJ cartilage grades (n = 2,461). Kruskal-Wallis H tests were performed to compare differences in PFJ morphology between subjects without PFJ osteoarthritis (OA) and those with PFJ OA. PFJ morphology was correlated with secondary outcomes of mean patellar cartilage thickness and mean patellar cartilage T2 relaxation time using linear regression models controlling for age, sex, and body mass index.


      A total of 1,626 knees did not have PFJ OA, whereas 835 knees had PFJ OA. Knees without PFJ OA had an increased (anterior) sTTTG distance (mean ± standard deviation, 11.1 ± 12.8 mm) compared with knees with PFJ OA (8.4 ± 12.7 mm) (P < .001), indicating a more posterior tibial tubercle in subjects with PFJ OA. Knees without PFJ OA had a decreased sulcus angle (127.4° ± 7.1° vs 128.0° ± 8.4°, P = .01) and increased trochlear depth (9.1 ± 1.7 mm vs 9.0 ± 2.0 mm, P = .03) compared with knees with PFJ OA. Decreased patellar cartilage thickness was associated with decreased trochlear depth (β = 0.12, P = .002) and increased CDI (β = –0.07, P < .001). Increased patellar cartilage T2 relaxation time was correlated with decreased sTTTG distance (β = –0.08, P = .01), decreased sulcus angle (β = –0.12, P = .04), and decreased CDI (β = –0.12, P < .001).


      PFJ OA, patellar cartilage thickness, and patellar cartilage T2 relaxation time were shown to be associated with the underlying geometries within the PFJ. This large longitudinal study highlights that a decreased sTTTG distance (i.e., a more posterior tibial tubercle) is significantly associated with PFJ degenerative cartilage change.

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      Level III, retrospective comparative prognostic trial.
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