Lateral Patellofemoral Ligament: An Anatomic Study

Orthop J Sports Med. 2017 Dec 4;5(12):2325967117741439. doi: 10.1177/2325967117741439. eCollection 2017 Dec.


Background: Medial instability of the patellofemoral joint is a rare but known phenomenon that may result from an incompetent lateral patellofemoral ligament (LPFL). Surgical reconstruction of the LPFL has been described. However, anatomic details of the ligament have not been the subject of scrutiny.

Purpose: To describe the anatomic origin and insertion of the LPFL.

Study design: Descriptive laboratory study.

Methods: Ten fresh-frozen, unpaired human cadaveric knees (mean age, 57 years) were dissected to identify the LPFL. The dissection was carried out by elevating the iliotibial band to expose the deep capsular layer of the knee joint, followed by a medial parapatellar approach to the knee. Then the quadriceps and patellar tendons were sectioned, and the LPFL was isolated by visualization and palpation. The LPFL was dissected to reveal its origin and insertion; these were measured with respect to the lateral epicondyle and the superior-inferior axis of the lateral patella, respectively.

Results: On average, the LPFL had a variable point of origin in location as well as width about the lateral epicondyle. The LPFL originated, on average, 2.6 mm distal (range, 13.1 mm proximal to 11.4 mm distal) and 10.8 mm anterior (range, 7.3 mm posterior to 14.9 mm anterior) to the lateral epicondyle. The LPFL insertion on the patella was more reliably found to be about 45% (range, 23.7%-58.4%) of its lateral articular surface. The insertion on the patella was found to be in the middle third of the lateral patella.

Conclusion: The LPFL has an origin that is variable but, on average, was found to be distal and anterior to the lateral epicondyle. The patella insertion was more reliably found to be in the middle third of the lateral patella. These anatomic relationships can help the surgeon reconstruct the LPFL in a more anatomic fashion.

Clinical relevance: Surgeons who are tasked with reconstruction of the LPFL of a patient with idiopathic medial instability or a previous aggressive lateral release of the knee may reference this article to perform an anatomic reconstruction of the LPFL. We hope that having anatomic landmarks for the reconstruction of this ligament permits the surgeon to operate in an efficient manner that allows for the optimal outcome. This is a rare surgical issue, and no studies are available that provide this information. The little information present in the literature does not provide measurements for anatomic reconstruction; rather, it is limited to descriptions of reconstruction techniques that indirectly provide stability on the lateral aspect of the knee.

Keywords: anatomic reconstruction; lateral patellofemoral ligament; medial instability.