Patella Tendon Rupture

Patella tendon rupture is an injury to the tendon that connects the patella (kneecap) to the top portion of the tibia (shin bone). The patellar tendon works together with the quadriceps muscle and the quadriceps tendon to straighten your knee.

This injury most commonly occurs in middle-aged people who participate in sports which involve jumping and running. The patellar tendon can be injured various ways such as fall, direct blow to the knee, or landing on the foot awkwardly from a jump or fall.  Other causes include patellar tendonitis (inflammation of patellar tendon), diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes mellitus, infection, and chronic renal failure. Use of medications such as steroids can cause increased muscle and tendon weakness.

When the patellar tendon tears, the patella may lose its attachment to the tibia.  You may be unable to straighten your knee and when standing lose the ability to keep the knee straight.  Patient’s describe the knee buckling on itself.

To identify patellar tendon rupture Dr. Fischer will take a focused history and perform a physical examination of your knee.  Some imaging tests, such as an X-ray or MRI may be ordered to confirm the diagnosis.  X-ray of the knee is taken to reveal the position of the kneecap and MRI scan to know the extent and pattern of the tear.

Patellar tendon rupture can be treated by non-surgical and surgical methods. Non-surgical treatment involves use of knee braces to immobilize the knee. Crutches or a walker are often needed to assist with mobilization.  Physical therapy will be recommended to restore strength and range of motion of the knee.

Surgery is performed when the injury is unlikely to heal adequately on its own and to facilitate a more rapid return to activity.  The goals of the surgery are to re-attach the torn tendon to the kneecap and restore the normal kinematic function of the knee.  Sutures are placed in the torn tendon which is then passed through holes drilled in the kneecap. The sutures are tied at the top of the patella to pull the torn edge of the tendon back to its normal position.

Even with a well performed surgery, patients may experience persistent weakness and loss of motion, particularly knee extension.  Following your rehabilitation guidelines is important to ensure a complete recovery and prevent reinjury.

Following surgery, a knee brace or cast is placed to protect the healing tendon.  Complete healing of the tendon will take 3-6 months.