The reliability and validity of the Q-angle: a systematic review


The Quadriceps or Q-angle is an index of the vector for the combined pull of the extensor mechanisms and the patellar tendon. It is used as an indicator for patellofemoral joint dysfunction. The purpose of this article is to systematically review and appraise the literature to determine the reliability and validity of this test. An electronic database search was performed accessing AMED, British Nursing Index, CINAHL, the Cochrane database, EMBASE, ovid Medline, Physiotherapy Evidence Database (PEDro), PsycINFO, Pubmed and Zetoc to April 2008. All English language, human subject, clinical trials, assessing the inter- or intra-tester reliability, or the criterion validity, were included. The Critical Appraisal Skills Programme appraisal tool was used to establish the methodological quality of each study. Ten articles including 569 control and 179 patellofemoral disorder knees were reviewed. The findings suggest that there is considerable disagreement on the reliability and validity of the clinical Q-angle measurement. This may be due to a lack of standardisation in the measurement procedure. Further study is advocated to re-evaluate this topic using well-designed, and sufficiently large observational studies of specific patellofemoral dysfunction populations.

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We thank Miss Kate Hulse for her assistance with the photographs used in this study.

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Correspondence to Toby O. Smith.

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Smith, T.O., Hunt, N.J. & Donell, S.T. The reliability and validity of the Q-angle: a systematic review. Knee Surg Sports Traumatol Arthr 16, 1068–1079 (2008).

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  • Patellofemoral joint
  • Assessment
  • Reliability
  • Validity
  • Systematic review