The arterial supply of the patellar tendon: anatomical study with clinical implications for knee surgery

Clin Anat. 2009 Apr;22(3):371-6. doi: 10.1002/ca.20770.


The middle-third of the patellar tendon (PT) is well-established as a potential graft for cruciate ligament reconstruction, but there is little anatomical basis for its use. Although studies on PT vascular anatomy have focused on the risk to tendon pedicles from surgical approaches and knee pathophysiology, the significance of its blood supply to grafting has not been adequately explored previously. This investigation explores both the intrinsic and extrinsic arterial anatomy of the PT, as relevant to the PT graft. Ten fresh cadaveric lower limbs underwent angiographic injection of the common femoral artery with radio-opaque lead oxide. Each tendon was carefully dissected, underwent plain radiography and subsequently schematically reconstructed. The PT demonstrated a well-developed and consistent vascularity from three main sources: antero-proximally, mainly by the inferior-lateral genicular artery; antero-distally via a choke-anastomotic arch between the anterior tibial recurrent and inferior medial genicular arteries; and posteriorly via the retro-patellar anastomotic arch in Hoffa's fat pad. Two patterns of pedicles formed this arch: inferior-lateral and descending genicular arteries (Type-I); superior-lateral, inferior-lateral, and superior-medial genicular arteries (Type-II). Both types supplied the posterior PT, with the majority of vessels descending to its middle-third. The middle-third PT has a richer intrinsic vascularity, which may enhance its ingrowth as a graft, and supports its conventional use in cruciate ligament reconstruction. The pedicles supplying the PT are endangered during procedures where Hoffa's fat pad is removed including certain techniques of PT harvest and total knee arthroplasty.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Angiography
  • Arteries / anatomy & histology
  • Humans
  • Knee / blood supply*
  • Knee / diagnostic imaging
  • Knee / surgery*
  • Middle Aged
  • Patellar Ligament / blood supply*
  • Patellar Ligament / diagnostic imaging
  • Patellar Ligament / surgery*