Patella Fractures: Approach to Treatment

Damayea I. Hargett, MD; Brent R. Sanderson, DO; Milton T.M. Little, MD


J Am Acad Orthop Surg. 2021;29(6):244-253. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Patellar fracture morphology varies based on the mechanism of injury. Most fractures are either a result of direct impact or through an indirect eccentric extensor contraction injury. Each fracture pattern requires appropriate preoperative planning and individualization of the fixation method. Displaced fractures affect the extension apparatus, and often require surgical fixation. Surgical treatment is recommended in fractures with any of the following features: articular step-off > 2 mm, > 3 mm of fracture displacement, open fractures, and displaced fractures affecting the extensor mechanism. Meticulous handling of the soft-tissue envelope is of the utmost importance, given the patella's tenuous blood supply and limited soft-tissue envelope. Incongruent articular surface can result in detrimental long-term effects; therefore, surgical treatment is directed toward anatomic reduction and fixation. The evolution of patellar fracture fixation continues to maximize options to balance rigid fixation with low-profile fixation constructs. Improving functional outcomes, minimizing soft-tissue irritation, and limiting postoperative complications are possible by using the therapeutic principles of rigid anatomical fixation and meticulous soft-tissue handling.