• patella alta;
  • patellar tracking;
  • patellofemoral pain;
  • ovine stifle joint


Patella alta is associated with adverse cartilage adaptations, patellofemoral pain, and instability. It is defined by a relatively long patellar tendon and patella positioned in a more proximal location within the patellar groove of the femur. This study used the ovine stifle joint model to investigate the effect of patellar tendon lengthening on the 3D passive kinematics of the patellofemoral and tibiofemoral joints. Eight patellar tendons were lengthened in 2 mm increments up to a maximum of 12 mm (20%) using a device placed in series with the transected patellar tendon. Three-dimensional kinematics were measured in the intact joint and at each increment of patellar tendon length (LT) during passively induced tibiofemoral flexion. Patellar flexion angle was linearly correlated with tibial flexion angle in the intact joint, and this correlation persisted after tendon lengthening (R = 0.897–0.965, p < 0.01). Patellofemoral kinematics expressed as a function of tibial flexion angle were significantly altered by LT increases >9%. In contrast, when patellofemoral kinematics were expressed as a function of patellar flexion angle they were not significantly altered by increases in LT. Tibiofemoral kinematics were not affected by the LT increases. These results demonstrate that for a given tibial flexion angle, patellar tendon lengthening alters the patellar flexion angle. However, for a given patellar flexion angle, the orientation of the patella in the remaining five degrees of freedom is unchanged, implying a repeatable path of patellar motion. © 2012 Orthopaedic Research Society. Published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Orthop Res 30:1789–1797, 2012