Predictors of recurrent instability after acute patellofemoral dislocation in pediatric and adolescent patients

Laura W. Lewallen, Amy L. McIntosh, Diane L. Dahm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

163 Scopus citations


Background: Patellofemoral instability is common in the pediatric and adolescent population, yet prognosis after the first dislocation has been difficult to determine. Purpose: To describe the demographics of pediatric and adolescent patients with a first-time patellofemoral dislocation and to determine predictors of recurrent instability. Study Design: Case-control study; Level of evidence, 3. Methods: A search of the Mayo Medical Index database between 1998 to 2010 was performed, and 2039 patients were identified. Inclusion criteria were (1) age 18 years or younger, (2) no history of patellofemoral subluxation/dislocation of the affected knee, (3) radiographs within 4 weeks of the initial instability episode, and (4) a dislocated patella requiring reduction or convincing history/findings suggestive of acute patellar dislocation (effusion/hemarthrosis, tenderness along medial parapatellar structures, and apprehension with lateral patellar translation). Radiographs were evaluated for trochlear dysplasia (Dejour classification) and patella alta (Caton-Deschamps and Insall-Salvati indices). Skeletal maturity was graded based on the distal femoral and proximal tibial physes (open, closing, or closed). Results: A total of 222 knees (120 male [54.1%] and 102 female [45.9%]) in 210 patients with an average age of 14.9 years (range, 9-18 years), met the inclusion criteria. Twenty-four patients (10.8%) underwent early surgery. All others were initially treated nonoperatively. Of the 198 patients in this group, 76 (38.4%) had recurrent instability, and 39 (51.3%) of these required surgical treatment. Recurrent instability was associated with trochlear dysplasia (P<.01). Patients with both immature physes and trochlear dysplasia had a recurrence rate of 69% (33/48), with a hazard ratio of 3.3. Age, sex, body mass index, and patella alta were not statistically associated with recurrent instability. Conclusion: Nonoperative treatment for first-time patellofemoral dislocation resulted in a 62% success rate. However, skeletally immature patients with trochlear dysplasia had only a 31% success rate with nonoperative management. Nearly half of patients with recurrent instability required surgical intervention to gain stability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)575-581
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Sports Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • adolescents
  • patellofemoral dislocation
  • pediatrics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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