Malalignment and tracking abnormalities of the patellofemoral joint are common causes of anterior knee pain, which are often difficult to evaluate clinically. Conventional radiography, as well as the cross-sectional imaging modalities of computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are useful tools for both detecting and quantifying these abnormalities. Acute transient dislocation of the patella, on the other hand, is a relatively uncommon injury accounting for only 2% to 3% of all acute injuries of the knee, and can also be a difficult diagnosis to establish on the basis of history and physical findings alone. MRI is a sensitive, noninvasive method for detecting prior acute transient dislocation of the patella. This article begins by describing the role of CT and MRI as it pertains to the detection of abnormal patellofemoral tracking. Both static and dynamic techniques are described along with the standard criteria used to establish and quantify patellofemoral malalignment abnormalities. Next, the constellation of MRI findings most commonly encountered after acute transient dislocation of the patella are described. These findings include a typical bone bruise pattern involving the anterolateral aspect of the lateral femoral condyle and inferomedial patella, hemarthrosis, and injury to the medial soft-tissue restraints (especially the medial patellofemoral ligament). After transient dislocation of the patella, patients with significant osteochondral injury or disruption of the medial soft-tissue restraints may benefit from surgical repair. The role of MRI in preoperative planning is discussed as it relates to the detection of osteochondral injuries as well as injury to the medial soft-tissue restraints.
- Computed tomography
- Magnetic resonance imaging
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Orthopedics and Sports Medicine