Knee (horizontal beam lateral view)

Dr Craig Hacking and Andrew Murphy et al.

The horizontal beam lateral view (cross-table lateral) is an orthogonal view to the AP view of the knee. It is the ideal projection to assess for lipohemarthrosis in a joint effusion, and requires little to no patient movement; hence, it is the lateral projection of choice for acute knee injuries.

  • patient is supine on the table/bed 
  • affect knee is flexed slightly ≈ 30° (to the best of patients ability)
  • the detector is placed against the medial side of the knee running parallel to the affected leg, often held by the patient or sandbags 
  • the long axis of the long is running perpendicualr to the beam 
  • lateromedial projection
  • centring point
    • center to the knee joint 1.5-2.0 cm distal to the apex of the patella or at the tibial tuberosity if the patella is affected by certain injury patterns
  • collimation
    • superior to include the distal femur
    • inferior to include the proximal tibia/fibula
    • anterior to include the skin margin 
    • posterior to include skin margin
  • orientation  
    • landscape
  • detector size
    • 35 cm x 43 cm
  • exposure
    • 60-70 kVp
    • 7-10 mAs
  • SID
    • 100 cm
  • grid
    • no

A true horizontal beam lateral projection will have the following characteristic:

  • superimposition of the medial and lateral condyles of the distal femur 
  • an open patellofemoral joint space 
  • slight superimposition of the fibular head with the tibia 

It is easy to describe how a horizontal beam knee should turn out, that is everything should superimpose. To achieve this can be technically demanding.

The distal femoral condyles have distinct features that can be used for differentiation and hence positional errors that can be corrected. The medial condyle has a medial adductor tubercle whilst the lateral condyle has a lateral condylopatellar sulcus. 

When the resultant image does not demonstrate superimposition of the two condyles in the rotational plane, look out for these anatomical landmarks to determine if the knee needs to be externally or internally rotated. 

  • figure 2 demonstrates the medial condyles adductor tubercle free from superimposition in the posterior portion of the image, and this means the leg is internally rotated too much. Correct this by externally rotating the leg
  • when the medial adductor tubercle is projected overly anterior to the lateral condyle (figure 6) the leg can be internally rotated to adjust it

To summarize, if the medial adductor tubercle is not superimposed, projecting posterior in the image rotate the knee externally

If the lateral condyle significantly superimposes the medial adductor tubercle the knee must be internally rotated.

When the femoral condyles are projected unevenly in the inferior-superior plane, this is due to tube angle. This can be challenging to correct, but it's best only to change one factor; modify the tube angle do not move the patient and vice versa. 

Using the anatomical landmarks discussed above find the medial adductor tubercle, and establish the medical condyle.

  • when the medial condyle is projected superior to the lateral condyle, the tube should be angle cephalad  
  • medial condyle is project inferior (figure 3) to the lateral condyle a caudal angle is required
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Article information

rID: 47836
Section: Radiography
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:

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Cases and figures

  • Figure 1: horizontal beam lateral
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  • Figure 2: medial adductor tubercle in profile
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  • Figure 3: projection requiring caudal angle
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  • The patella is se...
    Figure 4: medial adductor tubercle in profile
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  • Figure 5: normal knee
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  • Figure 6: normal knee
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  • Figure 6: medial abductor tubercle seen anterior in the rotational plane
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  • Figure 7: normal knee
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