This diagnostic study was performed to determine the correlation between anterior knee pain and chondromalacia patellae and to define the reliability of magnetic resonance imaging for the diagnosis of chondromalacia patellae.Methods:
Fifty-six young adults (median age, 19.5 years) with anterior knee pain had magnetic resonance imaging of the knee followed by arthroscopy. The patellar chondral lesions identified by magnetic resonance imaging were compared with the arthroscopic findings.Results:
Arthroscopy confirmed the presence of chondromalacia patellae in twenty-five (45%) of the fifty-six knees, a synovial plica in twenty-five knees, a meniscal tear in four knees, and a femorotibial chondral lesion in four knees; normal anatomy was seen in six knees. No association was found between the severity of the chondromalacia patellae seen at arthroscopy and the clinical symptoms of anterior knee pain syndrome (p = 0.83). The positive predictive value for the ability of 1.0-T magnetic resonance imaging to detect chondromalacia patellae was 75% (95% confidence interval, 53% to 89%), the negative predictive value was 72% (95% confidence interval, 56% to 84%), the sensitivity was 60% (95% confidence interval, 41% to 77%), the specificity was 84% (95% confidence interval, 67% to 93%), and the diagnostic accuracy was 73% (95% confidence interval, 60% to 83%). The sensitivity was 13% (95% confidence interval, 2% to 49%) for grade-I lesions and 83% (95% confidence interval, 59% to 94%) for grade-II, III, or IV lesions.Conclusions:
Chondromalacia patellae cannot be diagnosed on the basis of symptoms or with current physical examination methods. The present study demonstrated no correlation between the severity of chondromalacia patellae and the clinical symptoms of anterior knee pain syndrome. Thus, symptoms of anterior knee pain syndrome should not be used as an indication for knee arthroscopy. The sensitivity of 1.0-T magnetic resonance imaging was low for grade-I lesions but considerably higher for more severe (grade-II, III, or IV) lesions. Magnetic resonance imaging may be considered an accurate diagnostic tool for identification of more severe cases of chondromalacia patellae.Level of Evidence:
Diagnostic Level I. See Instructions to Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.