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Kneecap Surgery: Realignment

Some procedures may be done using arthroscopy, a method that uses tiny incisions and special instruments to look and work inside the knee joint. Other procedures require open surgery. The kneecap can be realigned to improve its tracking. To do this, soft tissue may be cut or moved.

Surgery may be used when pain severely limits your activities. Or it may be done when a rehab program just isn’t helping enough.


Front view of knee anatomy with line on tissue next to patella that is released to move kneecap.
Tissue released to move kneecap

Front view of knee anatomy with quadriceps muscle reattached to kneecap.
Muscle reattached to kneecap

Front view of knee anatomy with patellar tendon attached to a new location on tibia.
Tendon attached to new location

Releasing tissue (lateral release)

This is done with either open surgery or arthroscopy. Releasing (cutting) the retinaculum reduces the pull on the kneecap so that it moves into its proper place. Releasing a plica band may also reduce pain.

Moving a quadriceps muscle (quad transfer)

This procedure balances pull from the upper leg and is done through open surgery. Part of the muscle is detached. Then it is reattached at a new place on the kneecap.

Shifting the attachment of the patellar tendon (patellar realignment)

This procedure improves tracking and is done using open surgery. Part of the tendon and the bone underneath are moved to a new location.

Recovering from Surgery

As you recover, you can aid the healing process by taking it easy at first. Your knee may be bandaged, wrapped, or iced to keep swelling down. You may be given a brace to protect your knee. This helps improve your range of motion and speed healing. Keep your leg raised above your heart so fluid can drain away and swelling is reduced. Surgery is often followed by a rehabilitation program.

Author: StayWell Custom Communications
Last Annual Review Date: 3/5/2008

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