What is patellofemoral release surgery?

The patella is your kneecap, and the femur is your thighbone. To keep your kneecap in place, there are several tissues surrounding it and connecting it to your femur. If you've suffered an injury or your muscles pull on your kneecap and create strain, you might experience pain.

Patellofemoral pain syndrome happens when the tissues attached to your kneecap are too tight. They can pull your kneecap out of place. Patellofemoral release surgery is a procedure that loosens these tight tissues and lets your kneecap move back into place.

Patellofemoral release surgery is often a last resort. Your doctor may only recommend this surgery after non-invasive treatments — such as bracing, physical therapy and activity modification — don't reduce or relieve your symptoms.

What to expect from patellofemoral release surgery

Doctors do this surgery using a scope. This means that your doctor can operate on your knee while only making a few small incisions in your skin. This reduces your recovery time to get you back on your feet sooner.

Once your doctor inserts the scope, they can see exactly how your knee tracks. They can then determine which tissues are too tight, too loose or damaged. The doctor can cut or release the tissues that are too tight. If your kneecap is moving too far to one side, your doctor may also tighten some of the other tissues to put your kneecap back in its proper position.

Following the surgery, your doctor will stitch the incisions around your knee closed and place a bandage over them. You'll be fitted with a brace that locks your knee at a 30-degree angle. You'll also need crutches to avoid putting weight on your knee for the first part of your recovery.

During your follow-up visit, your doctor can assess your knee's progress and prescribe physical therapy. Once you begin physical therapy, you'll be able to remove the brace and start putting some weight on your leg again. It can take three months to one year to recover.

Common conditions requiring patellofemoral release surgery

The most common conditions requiring this surgery are:

  • Arthritis
  • Patellofemoral pain disorder
  • Patellofemoral dislocation or instability

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