The trochlear sulcus of the native knee is consistently orientated close to the sagittal plane despite variation in distal condylar anatomy

Knee Surg Sports Traumatol Arthrosc. 2023 Sep;31(9):3618-3626. doi: 10.1007/s00167-021-06667-9. Epub 2021 Jul 21.


Purpose: The aim of this study was to describe the native trochlear orientation of non-arthritic knees in three planes and to quantify the relationship between trochlear and distal condylar anatomy across race and sex.

Methods: Computed tomography scans of 1578 femora were included in this study. The mediolateral position of the trochlear sulcus, the distal trochlear sulcus angle (DTSA) the medial sulcus angle (MSA) and the lateral sulcus angle (LSA) as well as the mechanical lateral distal femoral angle (mLDFA) were measured relative to a standard reference coordinate system. Multiple linear regression analyses were performed to account for potential confounding variables.

Results: The mediolateral position of the trochlear sulcus had minimal mean deviation of the sagittal femoral plane. The mean DTSA was 86.1° (SD 2.2°). Multilinear regression analysis found mLDFA, sex, and age all influence DTSA (p < 0.05), with mLDFA having by far the greatest influence (r2 = 0.55). The medial facet of the trochlear sulcus was found to be flat proximally and more prominent distally. The lateral facet was relatively uniform throughout the arc.

Conclusion: In non-arthritic knees, due to a strong positive correlation between the DTSA and the mLDFA, the trochlear sulcus is consistently orientated in the sagittal femoral plane regardless of distal condylar anatomy. Minor deviations from the sagittal plane occur in a lateral direction in the middle part and in a medial direction at the proximal and distal part of the trochlea. These findings have relevance regarding the biomimetic design of total knee implants.

Keywords: Distal trochlear orientation; Femoral component design; TKA; Total knee arthroplasty; Trochlear sulcus anatomy; mLDFA.

MeSH terms

  • Arthroplasty, Replacement, Knee* / methods
  • Femur / surgery
  • Humans
  • Knee Joint / surgery
  • Knee Prosthesis*
  • Lower Extremity