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04.05.2018 | Knee

In-vivo three-dimensional MR imaging of the intact anterior cruciate ligament shows a variable insertion pattern of the femoral and tibial footprints

Knee Surgery, Sports Traumatology, Arthroscopy
S. U. Scheffler, K. Maschewski, R. Becker, P. Asbach



Failure to reconstruct the natural footprints of the ruptured anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) may lead to premature graft-failure. Therefore, precise analyses of insertion site anatomy and inter-individual variations of the morphology of the ACL are highly important to facilitate optimal individualized graft placement. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to analyze the inter-individual variation of the morphology of the femoral and tibial ACL footprints.


Thirty subjects with an intact ACL were included in this study for MR imaging of their knee joint. A three-dimensional (3D) dual-echo steady-state sequence with near 0.8 mm isotropic resolution was acquired on a 3 T system with a 15-channel knee-coil. The ACL was subsequently manually segmented using dedicated medical imaging software (VitreaAdvanced®, Vital Images). The lengths and widths of the footprints were measured after reconstructing an axial oblique (tibial footprint) or coronal oblique (femoral footprint) section at the bone–ligament junction and descriptive analysis was conducted to describe morphology orientation of the footprint.


The femoral footprint measured on average 14 mm ± 2 mm (range 8–19 mm) in length and 5 mm ± 1 mm (range 3–8 mm) in width. The mean value of the tibial footprint measured 10 mm ± 2 mm (range 5–14 mm) in length and 7 mm ± 2 mm (range 5–13 mm) in width. Descriptive analysis showed a stretched, ribbon-like appearance of the femoral footprint, while the tibial footprint revealed larger variability, stretching from anterolateral to posteromedial around the anterior horn of the lateral meniscus.


3D imaging of the ACL footprints reveals a distinct difference in insertion site morphology and fiber bundle orientation between the femoral and tibial footprint. This questions the concept of strict anatomical separation of the ACL into an anteromedial and posterolateral bundle.

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