To determine the intrasession reliability of femoral cartilage thickness measurements using sonography and extend the pool of normative data for cartilage thickness measurements assessed by sonography.
A total of 77 healthy participants (55 men, 22 women), with an average age of 43 ± 18 (mean ± standard deviation) years, volunteered. Resting suprapatellar sonography was used to image trochlear cartilage thickness on 2 separate occasions a maximum of 7 days apart. Reliability was evaluated with intraclass correlation coefficients, Bland‐Altman analysis, standard error of measurement, and the smallest real difference. Normative data was assessed using linear, multiple regression models and independent group t tests.
The test‐retest level of agreement at all locations was high (intraclass correlation coefficient, 0.779–0.843), which increased to high–very high in young adults (intraclass correlation coefficient, 0.884–0.920). The standard error of measurement was 8.2% to 8.3% at all locations and reduced further to 5.4% to 6.3% in younger adults. The smallest real difference was between 22.8% and 23.1% for the full sample and 14.9% and 17.5% in young adults only. Multiple regression analyses demonstrated that age, weight, female sex, and a high physical activity frequency could significantly predict cartilage thickness at all locations (P < .05); however, female sex was the only significant independent predictor in all models (all P < .01). Females also had thinner cartilage at all locations (P < .01).
Suprapatellar sonography demonstrates high intratester reliability and measurement precision and is a promising method to assess trochlear cartilage thickness. Being female may impact femoral cartilage thickness more than other potential risk factors for knee osteoarthritis such as age, weight, and high physical activity frequency.