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J Med Case Rep. 2010 May 22;4:148. doi: 10.1186/1752-1947-4-148.

Role of pathophysiology of patellofemoral instability in the treatment of spontaneous medial patellofemoral subluxation: a case report.

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Ankara Numune Education and Research Hospital, Ankara, Turkey.



Medial patellar subluxation is usually seen after lateral retinacular release. Spontaneous medial subluxation of the patella is a very rare condition. There are few reports in the literature on the pathophysiology of iatrogenic medial patellar subluxation. To our knowledge, there are no reports of the pathophysiology of non-iatrogenic medial patellar subluxation in the English literature. In this study we present a case of spontaneous medial patellar instability that is more prominent in extension during weight bearing. We also try to define the treatment protocol based on pathophsiology.


We report the case of a 21-year-old Turkish man with spontaneous medial patellar instability. He had suffered right knee pain, clicking and popping sensation in the affected knee for three months prior to presentation. Clinical examination demonstrated medial patellar subluxation that is more prominent in extension during the weight bearing phase of gait and while standing. Increased medial tilt was observed when the patella was stressed medially. Conventional anterior to posterior, lateral and Merchant radiographs did not reveal any abnormalities. After three months of physical therapy, our patient was still suffering from right knee pain which disturbed his gait pattern. Throughout the surgery, medial patellar translation was tested following the imbrication of lateral structures. He still had a medial patellar translation that was more than 50% of his patellar width. Patellotibial ligament augmentation using an iliotibial band flap was added. When examined after surgery, the alignment of the patella was effectively corrected.


Chronic imbalance between the strengths of vastus lateralis and vastus medialis results in secondary changes in passive ligamentous structures and causes additional instability. Physical therapy modalities that aim to strengthen the vastus lateralis might be sufficient for the treatment of spontaneous medial instability. There would be no need for any surgical intervention if spontaneous medial instability was recognized before the additional instability occured. If necessary, lateral imbrication followed by lateral patellotibial ligament augmentation can be performed, and these would effectively correct spontaneous medial patellofemoral instability.

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