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Biotechnology - Physiology - Radiology and Medical Imaging

In Vivo Open-Bore MRI Reveals Region- and Sub-Arc-Specific Lengthening of the Unloaded Human Posterior Cruciate Ligament
Published: Wednesday, November 07, 2012
Author: Alison J. King et al.

by Alison J. King, Qunli Deng, Randy Tyson, Jonathan C. Sharp, Jarod Matwiy, Boguslaw Tomanek, Jeff F. Dunn

Open-bore MRI scanners allow joint soft tissue to be imaged over a large, uninterrupted range of flexion. Using an open-bore scanner, 3D para-sagittal images of the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) were collected from seven healthy subjects in unloaded, recumbent knee extension and flexion. PCL length was measured from one 2D MRI slice partition per flexion angle, per subject. The anterior surface of the PCL lengthened significantly between extension and flexion (p<0.001). Conversely, the posterior surface did not. Changes were not due to the PCL moving relative to the 2D slice partition; measurements made from 3D reconstructions, which compensated for PCL movement, did not differ significantly from measurements made from 2D slice partitions. In a second experiment, videos of knee flexion were made by imaging two subjects at several flexion angles. Videos allowed soft tissue tracking; examples are included. In a third experiment, unloaded knees of seven healthy, recumbent subjects were imaged at extension and at 40°, 70°, 90°, 100°, 110° and 120° flexion. The distance between PCL attachments increased between extension and 100°, and then decreased (p<0.001). The anterior surface of the PCL lengthened over the flexion angles measured (p<0.01). The posterior surface of the PCL lengthened between extension and 40° and then shortened (p<0.001). Both attachment separation and anterior surface length increased dramatically between extension and 40°, but varied less afterwards. Results indicate that PCL dynamics differ between terminal extension and active function sub-arcs. Also, attachment separation cannot predict the lengthening of all parts of the PCL, nor can lengthening of one part of the PCL predict the lengthening of another part. A potential connection between lengthening and loading is discussed. We conclude that low-field MRI can assess ligament lengthening during flexion, and that the dynamics of the PCL for any given region and sub-arc should be measured directly.