Basic Research

Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research®

, Volume 471, Issue 3, pp 1014-1020

First online:

The Vector of Quadriceps Pull is Directed From the Patella to the Femoral Neck

  • Osamu TanifujiAffiliated withDepartment of Orthopaedic Surgery, University of MichiganDivision of Orthopaedic Surgery, Department of Regenerative and Transplant Medicine, Niigata University Graduate School of Medical and Dental Sciences
  • , John David BlahaAffiliated withDepartment of Orthopaedic Surgery, University of Michigan Email author 
  • , Shin KaiAffiliated withCenter for Fostering Innovative Leadership, Institute for Research Collaboration and Promotion, Niigata University

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The quadriceps is the primary extensor of the knee. Its vector, which is perpendicular to the flexion axis of the knee, is important in understanding knee function and properly aligning total knee components. Three-dimensional (3-D) imaging enables evaluation using a 3-D model of each quadriceps component.


We calculated the direction and magnitude of the quadriceps vector (QV) and the precision of the measurement, and asked whether the QV bears a constant relationship to the femur and is aligned with an anatomically based axis on the femur.


Using CT data of 14 subjects, we created a 3-D solid model of each quadriceps muscle component. Vectors (3-D direction and length) for each quadriceps component were determined using principal component analysis for muscle direction and volume for magnitude; vector addition established the directional vector of the combined muscle. The combined vector originating in the center of the patella was compared with the shaft, mechanical, and spherical (center femoral head to center medial side of the knee) axes.


The QV passed from the patella center proximally crossing the femoral neck between the femoral head and greater trochanter and was most closely aligned with the spherical axis.


The QV axis may be an important reference for alignment of total knee components.

Clinical Relevance

The spherical axis can be used in aligning total knee components to the flexion axis of the knee.