Correlation of 3D Shift and 3D Tilt of the Patella in Patients With Recurrent Dislocation of the Patella and Healthy Volunteers: An In Vivo Analysis Based on 3-Dimensional Computer Models

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The concepts of lateral deviation and lateral inclination of the patella, characterized as shift and tilt, have been applied in combination to evaluate patellar malalignment in patients with patellar dislocation. It is not reasonable, however, to describe the 3-dimensional (3D) positional relation between the patella and the femur according to measurements made on 2-dimensional (2D) images.


The current study sought to clarify the relation between lateral deviation and inclination of the patella in patients with recurrent dislocation of the patella (RDP) by redefining them via 3D computer models as 3D shift and 3D tilt.

Study Design:

Descriptive laboratory study.


Altogether, 60 knees from 56 patients with RDP and 15 knees from 10 healthy volunteers were evaluated. 3D shift and tilt of the patella were analyzed with 3D computer models created by magnetic resonance imaging scans obtained at 10° intervals of knee flexion (0°-50°). 3D shift was defined as the spatial distance between the patellar reference point and the midsagittal plane of the femur; it is expressed as a percentage of the interepicondylar width. 3D tilt was defined as the spatial angle between the patellar reference plane and the transepicondylar axis. Correlations between the 2 parameters were assessed with the Pearson correlation coefficient.


The patients’ mean Pearson correlation coefficient was 0.895 ± 0.186 (range, –0.073 to 0.997; median, 0.965). In all, 56 knees (93%) had coefficients >0.7 (strong correlation); 1 knee (2%), >0.4 (moderate correlation); 2 knees (3%), >0.2 (weak correlation); and 1 knee (2%), <0.2 (no correlation). The mean correlation coefficient of the healthy volunteers was 0.645 ± 0.448 (range, –0.445 to 0.982; median, 0.834). A statistically significant difference was found in the distribution of the correlation coefficients between the patients and the healthy volunteers (P = .0034). When distribution of the correlation coefficients obtained by the 3D analyses was compared with that by the 2D (conventional) analyses, based on the bisect offset index and patellar tilt angle, the 3D analyses showed statistically higher correlations between the lateral deviation and inclination of the patella (P < .01).


3D shift and 3D tilt of the patella were moderately or strongly correlated in 95% of patients with RDP at 0° to 50° of knee flexion.

Clinical Relevance:

It is not always necessary to use both parameters when evaluating patellar alignment, at least for knees with RDP at 0° to 50° of flexion. Such a description may enable surgeons to describe patellar alignment more simply, leading to a better, easier understanding of the characteristics of each patient with RDP.

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