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Am J Sports Med. 2015 Jun;43(6):1386-90. doi: 10.1177/0363546515576902. Epub 2015 Mar 25.

Medial patellofemoral ligament tears in the setting of multiligament knee injuries rarely cause patellar instability.

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Department of Orthopedics, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, USA.
Department of Orthopedics, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, USA



Multiligament knee injuries (MLKIs) can also involve the medial patellofemoral ligament (MPFL), but there is a paucity of information regarding prevalence and relevance of MPFL involvement in this setting.


(1) To identify the prevalence of MPFL injury in MLKIs, (2) to determine whether an MPFL tear results in symptomatic patellar instability, and (3) to report clinical and functional outcomes of patients with and without MPFL tears after MLKI surgical reconstruction.


Cohort study; Level of evidence, 3.


The records of all patients who underwent surgical reconstruction of MLKI (defined as a grade 3 injury of ≥2 ligaments) at a single institution from 2007 to 2010 were reviewed. Age, sex, knee dislocation classification (according to Schenck), and MRI findings were documented. All preoperative MRI scans were reviewed by an experienced musculoskeletal radiologist to determine the presence or absence of MPFL involvement. If an MPFL tear was present, its anatomic location and severity as well as the presence of patellar or lateral femoral condyle bone bruises were documented. Inclusion criteria included (1) MLKI treated at a single institution, (2) presence of MPFL tear on preoperative MRI, and (3) minimum 2-year clinical follow-up. Patellar instability symptoms were assessed with the Kujala Knee Questionnaire. Functional outcomes were measured using the International Knee Documentation Committee (IKDC) score. IKDC scores were compared between patients who sustained MLKIs with and without MPFL tears. There were 21 patients in each group.


Over the 4-year study period, 30 of 51 patients (59%) treated surgically for a MLKI had MRI evidence of an MPFL tear. Nine were lost to follow-up, leaving 21 patients for review. There were 13 complete (62%), 5 high-grade partial (24%), and 3 partial (14%) MPFL tears. Sixteen of 21 tears (76%) occurred at the proximal third, with the remainder exhibiting diffuse signal abnormality consistent with tearing throughout the length of the MPFL. The superficial medial collateral ligament was involved in all patients. In no case was the MPFL repaired or reconstructed. At mean follow-up of 3.6 years (range, 2.0-5.7 years), only 1 of 21 patients (5%) complained of patellofemoral instability symptoms whereas 20 of 21 patients (95%) did not experience patellar subluxation or dislocation. No significant difference was found when IKDC scores were compared between patients with and without an MPFL tear (mean ± SD, 65.5 ± 22.9 vs 79.4 ± 16.1; P = .07).


MPFL tears occur frequently in patients with MLKI but rarely cause instability. In the majority of cases, MPFL tears do not need to be addressed at the time of surgery.


MPFL; MRI; instability; knee

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