Relationship between varus-valgus alignment and patellar kinematics in individuals with knee osteoarthritis
Abnormal varus-valgus alignment is a risk factor for patellofemoral osteoarthritis, but tibiofemoral alignment alone does not explain compartmental patellofemoral osteoarthritis progression. Other mechanical factors, such as patellar kinematics, probably play a role in the initiation and progression of the disease. The objective of this study was to determine which three-dimensional patellar kinematic parameters (patellar flexion, spin, and tilt and patellar proximal, lateral, and anterior translation) are associated with varus and valgus alignment in subjects with osteoarthritis. Ten individuals with knee osteoarthritis and varus (five subjects) or valgus (five subjects) knee alignment underwent assessment of three-dimensional patellar kinematics. We used a validated magnetic resonance imaging-based method to measure three-dimensional patellar kinematics in knee flexion while the subjects pushed against a pedal with constant load (80 N). A linear random-effects model was used to test the null hypothesis that there was no difference in the relationship between tibiofemoral flexion and patellar kinematics between the varus and valgus groups. Patellar spin was significantly different between groups (p = 0.0096), with the varus group having 2 degrees of constant internal spin and the valgus group having 4.5 degrees of constant external spin. In the varus group, the patellae tracked with a constant medial tilt of 9.6 degrees with flexion, which was significantly different (p = 0.0056) from the increasing medial tilt (at a rate of 1.8 degrees per 10 degrees of increasing knee flexion) in the valgus group. The patellae of the valgus group were 7.5 degrees more extended (p = 0.0093) and positioned 8.8 mm more proximally (p = 0.0155) than the varus group through the range of flexion that was studied. The pattern of anterior translation differed between the groups (p = 0.0011). Our results suggest that authors of future large-scale studies of the relationships between knee mechanics and patellofemoral osteoarthritis should not rely solely on measurements of tibiofemoral alignment and should assess three-dimensional patellar kinematics directly.