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Authors of section


Florian Gebhard, Phil Kregor, Chris Oliver

Executive Editors

Rick Buckley, Chris Colton

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Sleeve fracture fixation

1. Principles

Treatment goal

The patello-femoral joint is biomechanically very stressed when the knee is loaded. Any compromise of the joint surface is likely to lead to degenerative joint disease.
It is, therefore, highly desirable, in patellar fractures to strive for anatomical reduction of the joint surface and stable fixation. In addition, a treatment goal is restoration of function of the knee extensor mechanism.


Sleeve fractures are very rare and may be very subtle on x-rays as the sleeve remaining within the avulsed tendon is thin and is often not apparent on over-penetrated images, whilst at the same time, the lower pole of the patella may have a virtually normal profile.

2. Patient preparation and approach

Patient preparation

This procedure is normally performed with the patient in a supine position with the knee flexed 30°.

supine knee flexed 30


For this procedure a mid-axial longitudinal approach is used.

mid axial longitudinal approach

3. Reduction and fixation

Fracture debridement

The knee joint and fracture lines must be irrigated and cleared of blood clots and small debris to allow exact reconstruction.

tension band wiring

Reduction and temporary fixation

A Weber clamp is used to reduce the fracture before fixation.


Fixation of avulsion

Insert a partially threaded cannulated screw, with a washer, as a lag screw.

The fixation is checked with an image intensifier in AP and lateral planes.

sleeve fracture fixation

Neutralization of bending forces

As implant pull-out, or failure, is virtually inevitable, the bending distraction forces must be neutralized by additional patellotibial cerclage or tension band wiring.

Repair any tears of the lateral and medial patellar retinacula with sutures.

extraarticular avulsion fracture

4. Aftercare following patellar sleeve fracture fixation


Active knee function requires an intact knee extensor mechanism, a mobile patella, a well-preserved patello-femoral joint and muscle strength.
Knee stiffness and muscle weakness can become a problem after the necessary period of casting. Once deemed to be healed, a regimen of progressive knee mobilization and muscle strengthening must be supervised closely by the rehabilitation team.

Functional treatment

Patellar sleeve fracture fixation may not be completely stable. A period of immobilization in an extension splint is required. Usually the anterior incision is slow to heal as it is over a flexion surface and so it is usually best to leave the knee in extension for at least a week. Static isometric quadriceps exercises should be started on postoperative day 1 in the knee extension splint. At a later stage, special emphasis should be placed on active knee and hip movement continuing protection with a removable knee splint.

Weight bearing

Full weight bearing may be performed with the aid of crutches, or a walker, from postoperative day 1 with the knee extension splint in place. Splintage is usually maintained until about 6-8 weeks postoperatively.


Wound healing should be assessed regularly within the first two weeks. X-rays are of very limited value during follow-up. Clinical parameters (such as pain, tenderness, quadriceps control, active straight-leg raising, etc.) will guide the surgeon and the physical therapist in determining the pace of functional rehabilitation.

Implant removal

Implant removal may be required as the cerclage wire may be prominent under the skin. Patients should be warned that cerclage wires may break during the healing process and may need to be removed.

Thrombo-embolic prophylaxis

Consideration should be given to thrombo-embolic prophylaxis, according to local treatment guidelines.