Patella sleeve avulsion

Case contributed by Dr Yuan Ling


Injury at basketball. Tender inferior petalla.

Patient Data

Age: 10 years
Gender: Male

Left knee

Mild cortical elevation at the inferior patellar pole in keeping with sleeve avulsion at the origin of the patellar tendon. Mild overlying soft tissue swelling. No appreciable laxity of the patellar tendon silhouette. 

In this case, the patella is relatively mature (cartilaginous anlage almost fully ossified). Minimal stranding/edema of the infrapatellar (Hoffa) fat pad adjacent to the inferior margin of the patella suggests injury does not extend posteriorly to the articular surface.

Note the secondary ossification center at the tibial tuberosity. No significant fragmentation, thickening of the patellar tendon insertion, nor overlying soft tissue swelling.

Case Discussion

Patella sleeve avulsion is an important diagnosis not to miss. Note that there is no periosteum at the patella - the thin sclerotic line represents epiphyseal cartilage, bone-forming physeal cartilage, and zone of provisional calcification 1.

In this case, there is minimal cortical elevation in a relatively mature knee (no substantial unossified cartilage). The patella does not appear high-riding, nor is there significant effusion to suggest intra-articular extension.

However, when there is substantial unossified cartilage, sleeve avulsion often continues posteriorly to involve articular cartilage. Displacement of potentially bone-forming cartilage risks elongation or duplication of the patella, as bone growth continues from the displaced chondral fragment. Orthopedic fixation of the displaced chondral fragment is recommended to avoid this complication.

A high index of suspicion is therefore required, even though there may be minimal or no visible avulsed bone. MRI should be suggested to define the size and displacement of the radiolucent chondral fragment.

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Case information

rID: 69680
Published: 18th Jul 2019
Last edited: 16th Dec 2019
Inclusion in quiz mode: Included

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