Purpose: The aim of this study was to investigate the shape and the attachments of the medial patellofemoral ligament (MPFL) in cadaver specimens to determine an anatomical basis for the best MPFL reconstruction.
Methods: Twenty fresh-frozen knees were used. Dissection protocol implied performing dissections from within the knee joint. We investigated the shape and the attachments between the MPFL and the quadriceps tendon, the patellar and femur insertions, and all the other relationships with the medial soft tissues of the knee.
Results: The distal fibers of MPFL were interdigitated with the deep layer of the medial retinaculum. All isolated ligament had a sail-like shape with the patellar side bigger than the femoral side. The femoral insertion, distinct both from medial epicondyle and adductor tubercle, was located at 9.5 mm (range 4-22) distal and anterior respect to adductor tubercle and proximal and posterior to epicondyle. The medial third of the thickness of patella was involved in the insertion. The proximal third of the patella is always involved in the MPFL attachment; in 45% of the cases, it was extended to the medial third and in one case, an extension at the distal third was found. Additionally in 35% (7 cases), it extended to the quadriceps tendon and it were inconstantly attached at the vastus medialis obliques (VMO) tendon and at the vastus intermedius (VI) tendon in an aponeurotic structure.
Conclusions: The MPFL is a distinct structure that goes from patella to femur with a sail-like shape; its patellar insertion, that mostly occur via an aponeurosis tissue with VMO and VI, is at the proximal third of the patella but it may extend in some cases to the medial third patella or to the quadriceps tendon, or very rarely to the distal third of the patella. In the femoral side, the MPFL is inserted in its own site, in most cases distinct both from epicondyle and adductor tubercle, located on average at a 9.5 mm distance distally and anteriorly in respect to the adductor tubercle. Its lower margin was difficult to define. Given the importance of this structure, it must be reconstructed as anatomically as possible in its insertion and in its shape. Many attempts have been made to make functional reconstructions with less than excellent results.