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Lateral Release

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Updated April 15, 2008

Definition: A lateral release is a surgical procedure used to help realign the kneecap. The kneecap moves up and down in a groove on the end of the thigh bone as the knee bends.

What patients need a lateral release?
In some patients, the kneecap is abnormally pulled towards the outside of its groove. When the kneecap does not slide well within the groove, cartilage irritation and pain can result. There are several causes of patellar maltracking (the name given to the kneecap being pulled to the outside), and the most common is tight tissue attached to the outside of the kneecap (the lateral retinaculum).

When your doctor assesses your kneecap problems, he or she will look for several underlying problems with the mechanics of the kneecap. Patellar tilt is the angle of the kneecap, and whether or not it is being excessively tilted by a tight retinaculum. The other is patellar subluxation, which is when the kneecap is being pulled outside of the groove due to malalignment.

Lateral release is best for patient with excessive patellar tilt. When the lateral retinaculum is too tight, it can act as a tether to the kneecap. A lateral release is a procedure performed to cut through this tight retinaculum, and allow the kneecap to sit properly within its groove.

Does a lateral release help with knee pain?
A lateral release is successful when performed in the right patient. For many years, doctors were performing this procedure too commonly, and some patients did not find relief. As we have gained experience with this problem, surgeons have become better at selecting which patients are likely to benefit from a lateral release.

What are the side effects of a lateral release?
The most common side effect of a lateral release is bleeding into the knee; this can lead to pain and swelling. Other complications include infection, and scar tissue formation.

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  4. Hip & Knee
  5. Knee Conditions
  6. Kneecap (Patella) Disorders
  7. Lateral Release of the Patella

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