The Knee, ISSN: 1873-5800, Vol: 21, Issue: 5, Page: 920-5

Assessment of the lateral patellar facet in varus arthritis of the knee

Waldstein, Wenzel; Jawetz, Shari T; Farshad-Amacker, Nadja A; Merle, Christian; Schmidt-Braekling, Tom; Boettner, Friedrich


Lateral patellar arthritis has been associated with poor outcomes in unicompartmental knee arthroplasty. The current study correlates intraoperative findings with MRI imaging, skyline radiographs and the presence of anterior knee pain.


In 92 consecutive knees with varus arthritis, the patellofemoral compartment was assessed during surgery, on skyline radiographs and on MRI. Anterior knee pain was recorded on a visual-analog-scale. Intraoperative assessment was based on the Outerbridge grading scale. Skyline radiographs were evaluated according to the Ahlbäck grading scale; MRIs were assessed according to a modified Outerbridge grading scale.


There was an excellent correlation (r s=0.833; p<0.001) in the cartilage assessment of the lateral patellar facet between MRI and surgery. A good correlation (r s=0.664; p<0.001) was seen between Ahlbäck Grades and macroscopic Outerbridge Grades of the lateral patella. Ahlbäck Grades and MRI modified Outerbridge Grades showed a good correlation (r s=0.643; p<0.001) for the lateral patella. Twelve percent of knees (seven out of 60) with Ahlbäck Grade 0 or 1 and mild to moderate anterior knee pain had a macroscopic Outerbridge Grade of 3 on the lateral patella. None of these 60 knees had a full-thickness cartilage defect on MRI.


Normal skyline radiographs in patients with mild to moderate anterior knee pain can rule out full-thickness cartilage defects of the lateral patellar facet as observed during surgery and on MRI. The MRI allows for the most accurate assessment of the patellofemoral joint and is warranted in all patients with radiographic abnormalities or severe anterior knee pain.

Level of evidence

Diagnostic study, Level II.

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