Patella Alta

Do you have a small knee cap? Are you suffering from weakness in the knee region? You may be suffering from a medical syndrome known as Patella Alta. Read on to know all about Patella Alta definition, its causes, symptoms and treatment.

What is Patella Alta?

Patella Alta is a defective condition of the knee. It is characterized by an abnormal position of the patella. Patella is the “knee cap” or the small flat triangular shaped bone that is normally placed in front of the knee and protects the knee joint. An unnatural position of the Patella makes the knee less stable. It affects leg strength and mobility in sufferers.

Patella Alta is a very rare condition. It is also known by the name “High-riding kneecaps”. It is usually found in  tall, thin people.

Picture Source: Scuderi GR


Patella Alta Position

In people suffering from Patella Alta deformity, the knee is positioned unusually higher over the femur. The patellar tendon which connects the shinbone (tibia) and the kneecap is longer than usual.

Patella Alta Symptoms

Patella Alta is characterized by a number of symptoms like


In people affected by Patella Alta normal stability in the knees is affected. Such people have problems while walking or running. Due to Patella Alta gait is affected to an extent.


In some cases, patients also experience pain in the knees. Pain in knee is a prominent Patella Alta sign though all cases of patellar pain are not a symptom of this condition.

Dislocated knee cap

This is the most prominent symptom of the condition. In people with this syndrome, the knee cap is found to slide sideways. The knee is usually bent at an angle of 30 degree or more. A high riding knee can pull the patella (knee cap) out of its groove. Patella Alta dislocation can be very painful.

Patella Alta Causes

Patella Alta disorder can arise due to various factors such as

Defective fetal development

In most sufferers, Patella Alta develops as a congenital defect which means the sufferer may have got it while in fetus.

Sports Injury

The condition often results from a sports injury. During athletic activity, sudden changing of direction can pull the knee cap out of its socket and cause dislocation of the patella.

Loose ligaments

If a person suffers from slackened ligaments, intense athletic activity can cause dislocation of the patella. It can also result in Patella Alta knee pain.

Studded footwear

Choice of shoes also plays a factor behind this syndrome. Studded footwear puts the foot firmly in contact with the ground. Sudden twisting of the knee, as done while changing direction in sports like football, can result in dislocation of the knee cap.

Body type

Body structure also plays a role in this syndrome. People with a tall, thin frame are predisposed to health conditions like Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome and Quadriceps Tendinitis. These diseases are marked by pain, inflammation and discomfort in the knee.

Tendon Rupture

Patients suffering from rupture of tendons in the patellar region are commonly seen to suffer from Patella Alta of the knee.

Quadriceps Tendonitis

People experiencing swelling in the tendons of quadriceps or thigh muscles are also susceptible to this condition. Quadriceps Tendonitis is responsible for Patella Alta swelling in many people.

Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

People suffering from this disorder suffer from pain arising due to the contact of kneecap with the thigh bone. This is another reason behind the development of Patella Alta.

Patella Alta Diagnosis

The diagnosis of this condition is mainly carried out with the aid of Patella Alta radiograph tests. Lateral Radiograph examination of the knee helps determine the position of patella in relation to the knee joint line. The knee is flexed at an angle of 30 degrees and a Patella Alta measurement is carried out. Two medical procedures, Insall and Salvati Method and Blackburne and Peel method, are used to detect if there is more than 20% variation in patellar position. Over 20% variation is considered abnormal.

Patella Alta Treatment

Treatment is necessary if Patella Alta syndrome causes constant dislocation of the knee cap or pain in the patella. There are both conservative and non-conservative options for Patella Alta medical cure. Non-conservative cure involves surgical processes whereas conservative treatment consists of non-operative process.

Patella Alta Conservative Treatment

Non-surgical treatment involves knee-strengthening exercises and R.I.C.E. In patients of Patella Alta exercises help in making the knee stronger and more stable. This reduces or completely eliminates any difficulties in walking or running. It also reduces pain and discomfort in the patellar region.

R.I.C.E consists of giving rest, applying ice, compressing and elevating the knee cap. A combination of R.I.C.E and knee strengthening exercises is the best way for Patella Alta management. For patients of Patella Alta physical therapy is often necessary.

Patella Alta Non-Conservative Treatment

If the non-surgical methods fail to treat the condition, it becomes necessary to use surgical procedures. The surgical options for knee treatment involve:


The knee joint is examined with an arthroscope and a small incision is made to carry out any repairs.


The patella (knee cap) is removed with the help of a careful surgical operation in this process. A Patella Alta surgery provides permanent relief from patellar pain.

Lateral Release

This surgical process helps loosen the compact lateral tissue-like structures from the patella. Patella Alta lateral release has become quite a controversial process these days.

VMO Advance

Vastus Medialis Oblique advancement adjusts the position of the patella within the groove. It improves movement and knee stability in affected people.


This method is used to correct the alignment of the knee cap with relation to the femur. It also helps in making the knee cap more compact to prevent Patella Alta recurrent dislocation.


  1. james distefano jr. November 15, 2011
  2. james distefano December 11, 2011
  3. julie May 13, 2012
  4. veronica May 16, 2016
  5. Sandy March 19, 2017
  6. sukanya January 17, 2018
  7. michelle newman June 8, 2018

Leave a Reply