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The PCL-PCA Angle: A New Simple and Reliable MRI Method to Describe Anterior Tibial Translation in ACL-Deficient Knees

The PCL-PCA Angle: A New Simple and Reliable MRI Method to Describe Anterior Tibial Translation in ACL-Deficient Knees

Romain Seil, MD, Prof., LUXEMBOURG Renaud Siboni, MD, PhD student, FRANCE Charles Pioger, MD, FRANCE Caroline Mouton, PhD, LUXEMBOURG

Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Centre Hospitalier Luxembourg – Clinique d’Eich, Luxembourg, LUXEMBOURG

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Summary: The PCL-PCA was the best method to identify an abnormal PCL angle in the ACL-deficient knee, should therefore be recommended to quantify the buckling phenomenon of the PCL and detect increased static anterior tibial translation in ACL-injured knees.


The buckling phenomenon of the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) was shown to be associated with the presence of an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury. It seems to be an early sign of both knee decompensation and progressive structural damage of primary and secondary soft tissue stabilizers which may potentially compromise ACL reconstruction outcomes. The aim was to validate a new MRI method to measure the buckling phenomenon of the PCL, representative of anterior tibial translation, by comparing its reliability and accuracy to identify ACL-deficient knees with existing angles.


Patients were selected retrospectively and separated into a group of primary ACL injuries and ACL-intact knees. Exclusion criteria were: skeletal immaturity, PCL or a concomitant collateral ligament injury, signs of osteoarthritis (>1 Kellgren and Lawrence score), tibial plateau fracture, previous ACL reconstruction or displaced meniscal bucket handle tear. The assessment of the curvature of the anterolateral bundle of the PCL was performed on T2 sagittal MRI slices according to 3 techniques: (1) the PCL angle (PCLA), (2) the PCL inclination angle (PCLIA) and (3) a new angle: the PCL posterior cortex angle (PCL-PCA), representing the angle between the vertical part of the PCL-ALB and the posterior diaphyseal cortex of the femur. For each angle, the inter- and intra-observer reliability was measured. The ability to discriminate both ACL-deficient and ACL-intact knees was evaluated using ROC curves.


Twenty-four patients were included in each group. Intra-observer reliability was excellent for all 3 angles (ICCs > 0.90). Inter-observer reliability was excellent for the PCL-PCA (ICC > 0.90) and good for the PCLA and the PCLIA (ICCs between 0.75 and 0.90). The PCL-PCA had the highest precision (lowest standard error of measurement: 2.7°). It yielded an excellent discrimination between the ACL and CTL groups (AUC 0.80 [0.67-0.93]) with the highest sensitivity (71% [52.8-89.2]) and specificity (88% [75-100]) for a positive threshold when the angle was = 22.7°. The PCLA and PCLIA angles led to acceptable discrimination and lower sensitivities and specificities (PCLA: AUC 0.71, sensitivity 63%, specificity 79%, threshold = 117.9°; PCLIA: AUC 0.62, sensitivity 50%, specificity 83%, threshold = 21.4°).


In comparison with previously described methods, the PCL-PCA was the most reliable and accurate method to measure the PCL buckling phenomenon on MRI in ACL-deficient knees. It offers an easy and objective method for the follow-up of ACL-injured patients and can therefore be recommended for routine use.

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