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Patella alta is reduced following MPFL reconstruction but has no effect on quality-of-life outcomes in patients with patellofemoral instability



The primary purpose of this study was to determine if isolated medial patellofemoral ligament (MPFL) reconstruction for lateral patellofemoral instability altered the patellar height ratio. Secondary purposes were to use disease-specific quality-of-life scores to determine if MPFL reconstruction is as successful in patients with patella alta, compared to those without; and whether the change in the patellar height ratio after MPFL reconstruction is influenced by demographic and clinical factors.


Demographic and clinical data were collected pre-operatively on 283 patients with recurrent patellofemoral instability. Pre-operative and 6-month post-operative true-lateral radiographs were assessed to determine the patellar height ratio using the Caton-Deschamps index. A Caton-Deschamps index ≥ 1.2 was defined as patella alta. Paired t tests evaluated the effect of MPFL reconstruction on the Caton-Deschamps index. Using a two-sample t test, pre- and 24-month post-operative Banff Patellofemoral Instability Instrument (BPII) scores were assessed for differences in clinical outcomes between patients with and without patella alta. Pearson (for continuous variables) and Spearman rank correlations (for binary/ordinal variables) were calculated to determine the relationship between the patellar height ratio, demographic and pathoanatomic risk factors, and pre- and post-operative BPII scores.


Pre- and post-operative true-lateral radiographs were admissible for 229/283 patients (81%) following isolated MPFL reconstruction. A statistically significant difference in the Caton-Deschamps index was evident from pre- to post-operative for the entire cohort (p < 0.001). The mean decrease in ratio was 0.03, and the effect size was 0.27, classified as small. Pre-operatively 52/229 patients (22.7%) demonstrated a Caton-Deschamps index ≥ 1.2, mean = 1.27 (SD = 0.08); post-operatively 21/229 patients (9.2%) demonstrated patella alta, mean = 1.18, (SD = 0.10), p < 0.001 (two-tailed). The mean decrease in the Caton-Deschamps index for patients with pre-operative patella alta was 0.10; the effect size was 0.82, classified as large. Pearson r correlation of patella alta to the pre- and post-operative BPII scores demonstrated no statistically significant relationship.


This study has demonstrated that treatment of lateral patellofemoral instability with an isolated MPFL reconstruction results in a statistically significant decrease in patellar height ratio, with the effect size being greatest in patients with higher pre-operative Caton-Deschamps indices. In patients that presented with patella alta, normalization of the patellar height ratio occurred in 31/52 (59.6%) of the cases. Pre-operative patella alta was not associated with a statistically significant difference in disease-specific BPII outcome scores at any time point. Given these findings, the utility and results of tibial tubercle distalization in patients with patella alta should be a focus of further research.

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The authors wish to extend their gratitude to their colleagues at Banff Sport Medicine for their support of this research undertaking.


This research did not receive any specific grants or funding from any public, commercial or not-for-profit agencies.

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LH participated in study design and coordination, literature review, data collection, and manuscript writing. SK participated in study design and coordination, literature review, data collection, statistical analysis, and manuscript writing. ML participated in study design, statistical analysis and manuscript writing. AT participated in study design, literature review, data collection and manuscript writing. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Laurie Anne Hiemstra.

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This study received ethics approval from the University of Calgary Conjoint Health Research Ethics Board and Child Health Research Office (E-24393).

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Hiemstra, L.A., Kerslake, S., Lafave, M.R. et al. Patella alta is reduced following MPFL reconstruction but has no effect on quality-of-life outcomes in patients with patellofemoral instability. Knee Surg Sports Traumatol Arthrosc 29, 546–552 (2021).

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