Unique myological changes associated with ossified fabellae: a femorofabellar ligament and systematic review of the double-headed popliteus

Journal article


Berthaume, M. A., Barnes, S., Athwal, K.K. and Willinger, L. (2020). Unique myological changes associated with ossified fabellae: a femorofabellar ligament and systematic review of the double-headed popliteus. PeerJ. 8, pp. e10028-e10028. https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.10028
AuthorsBerthaume, M. A., Barnes, S., Athwal, K.K. and Willinger, L.
Abstract

The fabella is a sesamoid bone embedded in the tendon of the lateral head of the gastrocnemius. It is the only bone in the human body to increase in prevalence in the last 100 years. As the fabella can serve as an origin/insertion for muscles, tendons, and/or ligaments (e.g., the oblique popliteal and fabellofibular ligaments), temporal changes in fabella prevalence could lead to temporal changes in “standard” knee anatomy. The aim of this study was to investigate unique myological changes to the posterolateral corner knee associated with ossified fabella presence and perform a systematic review to contextualize our results.

Methods
Thirty-three fresh frozen cadaveric knees were considered. As the knees were all used for previous experimentation, the knees were in variable levels of preservation. Those with adequate preservation were used to determine ossified fabella presence/absence. When ossified fabellae were present, unique myologies associated with the fabella were recorded. A systematic review was performed on the double-headed popliteus to investigate possible correlations between this anatomical variant and the fabella.

Results
Of the 33 knees, 30 preserved enough soft tissue to determine fabella presence/absence: 16/30 knees had fabellae (five cartilaginous and 11 ossified). Eight of the eleven knees with ossified fabellae retained enough soft tissue to investigate the posterolateral knee anatomy. Of these, 4/8 exhibited unique myological changes. One knee had a double-headed popliteus muscle where one head originated from the medial side of a large, bulbous fabella. A systematic review revealed double-headed popliteus muscles are rare, but individuals are 3.7 times more likely to have a fabella if they have a double-headed popliteus. Another knee had a large, thick ligament stretching from the lateral edge of the fabella to the inferoposterior edge of the lateral femoral epicondyle, deep to the lateral collateral ligament (LCL) and near the popliteal sulcus. We found no mention of such a ligament in the literature and refer to it here as the “femorofabellar ligament”. In all four knees, the plantaris and lateral gastrocnemius appeared to share a common tendinous origin, and the fabella was located at/near the junction of these muscles. In the case of the double-headed popliteus, the fabella clearly served as an origin for the plantaris.

Conclusions
Despite being found in an average of 36.80% of human knees, most standard anatomical models fail to account for the fabella and/or the unique myological changes associated with fabella presence. Although our sample is small, these data highlight aspects of human biological variability generally not considered when creating generalized anatomical models. Further work is needed to identify additional changes associated with ossified fabellae and the functional consequences of omitting these changes from models.

KeywordsFabella; Myology; Double-headed popliteus; Dissection; Sesamoid bone
Year2020
JournalPeerJ
Journal citation8, pp. e10028-e10028
PublisherPeerJ
ISSN2167-8359
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.10028
Publication dates
Online16 Oct 2020
Publication process dates
Accepted02 Sep 2020
Deposited26 Oct 2020
Publisher's version
License
File Access Level
Open
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