Recurrent patellar instability can result from osseous abnormalities, such as patella alta, a distance of >20 mm between the tibial tubercle and the trochlear groove, and trochlear dysplasia, or it can result from soft-tissue abnormalities, such as a torn medial patellofemoral ligament or a weakened vastus medialis obliquus.
Nonoperative treatment includes physical therapy, focusing on strengthening of the gluteal muscles and the vastus medialis obliquus, and patellar taping or bracing. Acute medial-sided repair may be indicated when there is an osteochondral fracture fragment or a retinacular injury.
The recent literature does not support the use of an isolated lateral release for the treatment of patellar instability.
A patient with recurrent instability, with or without trochlear dysplasia, who has a normal tibial tubercle-trochlear groove distance and a normal patellar height may be a candidate for a reconstruction of the medial patellofemoral ligament with autograft or allograft.
Distal realignment procedures are used in patients who have an increased tibial tubercle-trochlear groove distance or patella alta. The degree of anteriorization, distalization, and/or medialization depends on associated arthrosis of the lateral patellar facet and the presence of patella alta. Associated medial or proximal patellar chondrosis is a contraindication to distal realignment because of the potential to overload tissues that have already undergone degeneration.