Effect of Loading on In Vivo Tibiofemoral and Patellofemoral Kinematics of Healthy and ACL-Reconstructed Knees

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Abstract

Background:

Although knees that have undergone anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction (ACLR) often exhibit normal laxity on clinical examination, abnormal kinematic patterns have been observed when the joint is dynamically loaded during whole body activity. This study investigated whether abnormal knee kinematics arise with loading under isolated dynamic movements.

Hypothesis:

Tibiofemoral and patellofemoral kinematics of ACLR knees will be similar to those of the contralateral uninjured control knee during passive flexion-extension, with bilateral differences emerging when an inertial load is applied.

Study Design:

Controlled laboratory study.

Methods:

The bilateral knees of 18 subjects who had undergone unilateral ACLR within the past 4 years were imaged by use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Their knees were cyclically (0.5 Hz) flexed passively. Subjects then actively flexed and extended their knees against an inertial load that induced stretch-shortening quadriceps contractions, as seen during the load acceptance phase of gait. A dynamic, volumetric, MRI sequence was used to track tibiofemoral and patellofemoral kinematics through 6 degrees of freedom. A repeated-measures analysis of variance was used to compare secondary tibiofemoral and patellofemoral kinematics between ACLR and healthy contralateral knees during the passive and active extension phases of the cyclic motion.

Results:

Relative to the passive motion, inertial loading induced significant shifts in anterior and superior tibial translation, internal tibial rotation, and all patellofemoral degrees of freedom. As hypothesized, tibiofemoral and patellofemoral kinematics were bilaterally symmetric during the passive condition. However, inertial loading induced bilateral differences, with the ACLR knees exhibiting a significant shift toward external tibial rotation. A trend toward greater medial and anterior tibial translation was seen in the ACLR knees.

Conclusion:

This study demonstrates that abnormal knee kinematic patterns in ACLR knees emerge during a simple, active knee flexion-extension task that can be performed in an MRI scanner.

Clinical Relevance:

It is hypothesized that abnormal knee kinematics may alter cartilage loading patterns and thereby contribute to increased risk for osteoarthritis. Recent advances in quantitative MRI can be used to detect early cartilage degeneration in ACLR knees. This study demonstrates the feasibility of identifying abnormal ACLR kinematics by use of dynamic MRI, supporting the combined use of dynamic and quantitative MRI to investigate the proposed link between knee motion, cartilage contact, and early biomarkers of cartilage degeneration.

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