The aim of this study was to define a body-fixed coordinate frame for the scapula that minimises axes variability and is closely related to the clinical frame of reference. Medical images of 21 scapulae were used to quantify 14 different axes from identifiable landmarks. The plane of the blade of the scapula was defined. The orientations of the quantified axes were calculated. The angular relationships between axes were quantified and applied to grade the sensitivity of each axis to inter-scapular variations in the others. The volume of data required to define an axis was noted for its dependency on pathology and the three criteria were weighted according to relative importance. The two axes with the highest weighting were applied to define a body-fixed Cartesian coordinate frame for the scapula. A least square medio-lateral line through the centre of the spine root was the most optimal axis. The plane formed by the spine root line and a least square line through the centre of the lateral border ridge was the most optimal scapular plane. This body-fixed Cartesian coordinate frame is closely aligned to the cardinal planes in the anatomical position and thus is a clinically applicable, specimen invariant coordinate frame that can be used in patient-specific kinematics modelling. © 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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