PURPOSE: Increased tibial tubercle trochlear groove distance (TT-TG) is frequently associated with trochlear dysplasia (TD). Since the trochlear groove appears more distally in patients with TD compared to controls, it is unknown whether TT-TG might be comparable and meaningful.
METHODS: Fifty patients with TD were retrospectively analysed and compared to 52 age- and gender-matched patients (CG). TT-TG was measured on transverse MR images, as the distance between the trochlear groove of minimal 2 mm depth proximally and the centre of the patellar tendon at its distal insertion. The height of the femoral reference point above joint line was recorded for both groups. TT-TG measurement was repeated in CG using the first (P25), second (P50) and third quartile (P75) above joint line of TD.
RESULTS: Patients with TD had a significantly smaller vertical distance between the most proximal trochlear deepening and the femorotibial joint line (20.6 mm, range 10.3-30.9) compared to CG (33.8 mm, range 25.4-41.1; p < 0.001). TT-TG values measured at 20 mm (P50) and 15 mm (P25) proximal to the femorotibial joint line were significantly smaller compared when measured with the most proximal reference point [1.8 mm (95 % CI 1.3-2.3, p < 0.001) and 2.4 mm (95 % CI 1.9-3.0, p < 0.001)] in CG. The inter-rater reliability was excellent (ICC 0.99).
CONCLUSION: TT-TG distance depends significantly on the femoral reference point. Since the trochlear groove is seen more distally in patients with TD compared to controls, TT-TG of the patients with highest risk of recurrent patellar instability might be underestimated.
LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: Diagnostic study, Level I.