Background: There is no consensus about the management of acute primary traumatic patellar dislocation in young physically active adults. The objective of this study was to compare the clinical outcomes after treatment with and without initial stabilizing surgery for primary traumatic patellar dislocation in young adults.
Methods: Forty young adults, thirty-seven men and three women with a median age of twenty years (range, nineteen to twenty-two years), who had an acute primary traumatic patellar dislocation were randomly allocated to be treated with initial surgical stabilization (eighteen patients, with each receiving one of two types of initial stabilizing procedures) or to be managed with an orthosis (twenty-two patients, including four who had osteochondral fragments removed arthroscopically). After a median of seven years, thirty-eight patients returned for a follow-up examination. Redislocations, subjective symptoms, and functional limitations were evaluated. Radiographs and magnetic resonance images were obtained at the time of randomization, and twenty-nine (76%) patients underwent magnetic resonance imaging at the time of final follow-up.
Results: A hemarthrosis as well as injuries of the medial retinaculum and the medial patellofemoral ligament were found on magnetic resonance imaging in all patients at the time of randomization. During the follow-up period, six of the twenty-one nonoperatively treated patients and none of the seventeen patients treated with surgical stabilization had a redislocation (p = 0.02). Four nonoperatively treated patients and two patients treated with surgical stabilization reported painful patellar subluxation. The median Kujala scores were 91 points for the surgically treated patients and 90 points for the nonoperatively treated patients. Thirteen patients in the surgically treated group and fifteen in the nonoperatively treated group regained their former physical activity level. At the time of follow-up, a full-thickness patellofemoral articular cartilage lesion was detected on magnetic resonance imaging in eleven patients; the lesions were considered to be unrelated to the form of treatment.
Conclusions: In a study of young, mostly male adults with primary traumatic patellar dislocation, the rate of redislocation for those treated with surgical stabilization was significantly lower than the rate for those treated without surgical stabilization. However, no clear subjective benefits of initial stabilizing surgery were seen at the time of long-term follow-up.
Level of Evidence: Therapeutic Level I. See Instructions to Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.