The pathologic double contour sign and the trochlea shape patterns can diagnose trochlea dysplasia

J ISAKOS. 2023 Apr;8(2):74-80. doi: 10.1016/j.jisako.2022.11.006. Epub 2022 Nov 23.


Objectives: The goal of this study is to describe the distinct morphologic patterns of the normal and dysplastic trochleae, the trochlear shape patterns (TSP) seen on the axial views of MRI scans.

Method: Two cohorts of patients were used for comparison. Cohort 1: MRI scans of 100 patients with no history of patella instability. Cohort 2: MRI scans of 66 patients diagnosed with severe trochlea dysplasia and patella instability. The presence of the pathologic double contour (PDC) sign and the type of TSP were identified in the axial views at the level of three specific anatomical references: Trochlear Specific Zone 0 (TSZ 0), posterior femoral condyle line (PFCL) and transverse distal femoral physis line (tv-DFPL). The pathologic double contour sign is an area of flat or convex lateral trochlea which is elevated over the contour of the medial femoral condyle. Three basic morphologic patterns of trochlear shape were identified. TSP type 1 (normal trochlea): There is no PDC. There is a clearly defined sulcus delineating the lateral and medial trochlear facets (sulcus angle <165°). TSP type 2 (normal but shallow trochlea): There is no PDC. The trochlear groove is shallow (sulcus angle >165°), but the lateral and medial facets are present. TSP type 3: This pattern is characterised by the presence of a PDC. The chi-square test was used to determine whether the distribution of the TSP was the same between the two cohorts at the anatomical reference lines.

Results: The differences observed in distribution of the TSP between the two cohorts were statistically significant. There was a strong positive correlation between the morphology of the trochlea (TSP) and patella instability. All patients in the patella instability cohort showed a PDC.

Conclusion: Normal trochleae show TSP type 1 and 2 proximal to the tv-DFPL. The presence of the pathologic double contour sign and trochlea shape pattern type 3 (TSP 3) proximal to the tv-DFPL (PFCL or TSZ 0) are diagnostic of trochlea dysplasia.

Keywords: Patella instability; Pathologic double contour; Trochlea dysplasia; Trochlea shape patterns; Trochleoplasty.

MeSH terms

  • Epiphyses / pathology
  • Femur / diagnostic imaging
  • Femur / pathology
  • Humans
  • Hyperplasia / pathology
  • Joint Instability* / diagnostic imaging
  • Knee Joint* / diagnostic imaging
  • Knee Joint* / pathology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging