An Image-based Kinematic Model of the Tibiotalar and Subtalar Joints and its Application to Gait Analysis in Children with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis
In vivo estimates of tibiotalar and the subtalar joint kinematics can unveil unique information about gait biomechanics, especially in the presence of musculoskeletal disorders affecting the foot and ankle complex. Previous literature investigated the ankle kinematics on ex vivo data sets, but little has been reported for natural walking, and even less for pathological and juvenile populations. This paper proposes an MRI-based morphological fitting methodology for the personalised definition of the tibiotalar and the subtalar joint axes during gait, and investigated its application to characterise the ankle kinematics in twenty patients affected by Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA). The estimated joint axes were in line with in vivo and ex vivo literature data and joint kinematics variation subsequent to inter-operator variability was in the order of 1°. The model allowed to investigate, for the first time in patients with JIA, the functional response to joint impairment. The joint kinematics highlighted changes over time that were consistent with changes in the patient's clinical pattern and notably varied from patient to patient. The heterogeneous and patient-specific nature of the effects of JIA was confirmed by the absence of a correlation between a semi-quantitative MRI-based impairment score and a variety of investigated joint kinematics indexes. In conclusion, this study showed the feasibility of using MRI and morphological fitting to identify the tibiotalar and subtalar joint axes in a non-invasive patient-specific manner. The proposed methodology represents an innovative and reliable approach to the analysis of the ankle joint kinematics in pathological juvenile populations.