Executive Editor: Rick Buckley, Chris Colton

Authors: Florian Gebhard, Phil Kregor, Chris Oliver

Patella Partial articular, medial sagittal fragmentary fracture

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1 Principles top

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.


Combination of techniques

In fragmentary partial articular sagittal fractures, cerclage wiring may be used alone, or in combination with lag screw fixation of the major fragments.

If this surgical technique is used alone, it must be supplemented with a period of splintage or hinged knee bracing.


Verification of reduction

Anatomical reduction of the articular surface is monitored by palpating the joint from inside, as neither inspection nor the x-ray will reveal a minor step off. This will require creation of a small arthrotomy.

Nevertheless, an image intensifier or X-ray should always be available, so that the reduction can be checked in the AP and lateral planes if needed.

2 Patient preparation and approach top


Patient preparation

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



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

3 Reduction and fixation top


Fracture debridement

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



With the knee in flexion, reduce the major fracture fragments using a pointed bone reduction forceps or tenaculum.

Verify the reduction by palpation of the retropatellar surface if possible.


Inserting the cerclage wire

Choose a wire of enough strength to withstand the tensile forces generated in the cerclage (1.0 – 1.25 mm diameter).

The wire should be as close as possible to the bone throughout its whole course both superiorly and inferiorly. The use of a curved large bore injection needle may be helpful.


The wire is then similarly threaded around the circumference of the body of the patella and its lower pole, as illustrated.


Wire tightening

Loosely prepare the wire twist ensuring that each end of the wire spirals equally - the twist should not comprise one spiral around a straight wire.


Carefully tighten the wire while pulling away from the patella as the wires are twisted. Avoid over-tightening as this may distort the overall shape of the patella.

The wires should be twisted at least 5 times to prevent fixation failure. When stainless steel wires tighten they will lose the surface sheen and if tightened further the wire may break.

When the correct tension is achieved, twist and trim the wire ends.

Care should be taken finally to position the twisted wire into deeper soft-tissue muscle layers, if possible.

Verify the reduction by palpation of the retro patellar surface if possible.


Additional stabilization

The major fragment may additionally be fixed using a lag screw. 

v2.0 2019-03-21