An Anatomic Study on Whether the Immature Patella is Centered on an Anteroposterior Radiograph

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In the operating room, after first obtaining a proper lateral radiograph with the condyles superimposed, a 90-degree rotation of the intraoperative fluoroscopy unit does not always produce an anteroposterior (AP) image with the patella centered. The orthogonality of these 2 views has not been well determined in children.


This study was comprised of a radiographic group (35 knees) and a cadaveric group (59 knees). Both cadaveric and clinical images were obtained by resting or positioning the femur with the posterior condyles overlapped, and then taking an orthogonal AP image. Centering of the patella was calculated and multiple regression analysis was performed to determine the relationship between patellar centering and age, sex, ethnicity, mechanical lateral distal femoral angle (mLDFA), medial proximal tibial angle (MPTA), and contralateral centering.


Mean patellar centering, expressed as the lateral position of the patella with respect to the total condylar width, was 0.08±0.10 in the radiographic group and 0.06±0.03 in the cadaveric group. Positive (lateral) patellar centering in 1 knee had a statistically significant correlation with positive patellar centering in the contralateral knee in both the radiographs and the cadavers. In the radiographic group, there was a statistically significant correlation between femoral varus and valgus deformities and positive patellar centering. In the cadaveric group, there was a statistically significant correlation between tibial valgus and negative (medial) patellar centering.


The patella in an immature knee is rarely perfectly centered on a true AP image, and is usually seated slightly laterally within the femoral condyles.

Clinical Relevance:

Obtaining a true AP intraoperative radiograph is critical to analyzing and correcting valgus and varus deformities, and in the proper placement of implants. When addressing knee deformity one should consider obtaining an AP view orthogonal either to a perfect lateral of the knee or orthogonal to the flexion axis of the knee, particularly when evaluating distal femoral deformity.

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