Reliability of clinically relevant 3D foot bone angles from quantitative computed tomography

J Foot Ankle Res. 2013 Sep 17;6(1):38. doi: 10.1186/1757-1146-6-38.


Background: Surgical treatment and clinical management of foot pathology requires accurate, reliable assessment of foot deformities. Foot and ankle deformities are multi-planar and therefore difficult to quantify by standard radiographs. Three-dimensional (3D) imaging modalities have been used to define bone orientations using inertial axes based on bone shape, but these inertial axes can fail to mimic established bone angles used in orthopaedics and clinical biomechanics. To provide improved clinical relevance of 3D bone angles, we developed techniques to define bone axes using landmarks on quantitative computed tomography (QCT) bone surface meshes. We aimed to assess measurement precision of landmark-based, 3D bone-to-bone orientations of hind foot and lesser tarsal bones for expert raters and a template-based automated method.

Methods: Two raters completed two repetitions each for twenty feet (10 right, 10 left), placing anatomic landmarks on the surfaces of calcaneus, talus, cuboid, and navicular. Landmarks were also recorded using the automated, template-based method. For each method, 3D bone axes were computed from landmark positions, and Cardan sequences produced sagittal, frontal, and transverse plane angles of bone-to-bone orientations. Angular reliability was assessed using intraclass correlation coefficients (ICCs) and the root mean square standard deviation (RMS-SD) for intra-rater and inter-rater precision, and rater versus automated agreement.

Results: Intra- and inter-rater ICCs were generally high (≥ 0.80), and the ICCs for each rater compared to the automated method were similarly high. RMS-SD intra-rater precision ranged from 1.4 to 3.6° and 2.4 to 6.1°, respectively, for the two raters, which compares favorably to uni-planar radiographic precision. Greatest variability was in Navicular: Talus sagittal plane angle and Cuboid: Calcaneus frontal plane angle. Precision of the automated, atlas-based template method versus the raters was comparable to each rater's internal precision.

Conclusions: Intra- and inter-rater precision suggest that the landmark-based methods have adequate test-retest reliability for 3D assessment of foot deformities. Agreement of the automated, atlas-based method with the expert raters suggests that the automated method is a valid, time-saving technique for foot deformity assessment. These methods have the potential to improve diagnosis of foot and ankle pathologies by allowing multi-planar quantification of deformities.