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Quadriceps Tendon Rupture

Quadriceps Tendon Anatomy

The quadriceps tendon is a thick tissue located at the top of the kneecap. It works together with the quadriceps muscles to allow us to straighten our leg. The quadriceps muscles are the muscles located in front of the thigh.

What is a Quadriceps Tendon Rupture?

The quadriceps can rupture after a fall, direct blow to the leg and when you land on your leg awkwardly from a jump. Quadriceps tendon rupture most commonly occurs in middle-aged people who participate in sports that involve jumping and running. Other causes include tendonitis (inflammation of quadriceps tendon), diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes mellitus, infection and chronic renal failure, which weaken the quadriceps tendon. Use of medications such as steroids and some antibiotics also weakens the quadriceps tendon.

Consequences of Quadriceps Tendon Rupture

When the quadriceps tendon tears, the patella may lose its anchoring support in the thigh, as a result, the patella moves towards the foot. You will be unable to straighten your knee and upon standing the knee buckles upon itself.

Diagnosis of Quadriceps Tendon Rupture

To identify a quadriceps tendon tear, your doctor will review your medical history and perform a physical examination of your knee. Some imaging tests, such as an X-ray or MRI scan, may be ordered to confirm the diagnosis. An X-ray of the knee is taken to determine the position of the kneecap and MRI scan to know the extent and location of the tear. 

Treatment of Quadriceps Tendon Rupture

A quadriceps tendon tear can be treated by non-surgical and surgical methods. 

Non-surgical Treatment of Quadriceps Tendon Rupture

Non-surgical treatment involves the use of knee braces to immobilize the knee. Crutches may be needed to prevent the joint from bearing weight. Physical therapy may be recommended to restore the strength and increase range of motion of the knee.

Surgical Treatment of Quadriceps Tendon Rupture 

Surgery is usually performed on an outpatient basis. The goal of the surgery is to re-attach the torn tendon to the kneecap and restore the normal function of the knee. Sutures are placed in the torn tendon which is then passed through the holes drilled in the kneecap. The sutures are tied at the bottom of the kneecap to pull the torn edge of the tendon back to its normal position.

Postsurgical Care

Following surgery, a brace may be needed to protect the healing tendon. Complete healing of the tendon will take about 4 months. 

Risks and Complications of Quadriceps Tendon Rupture Surgery

As with all surgeries, surgery to treat quadriceps tendon rupture may be associated with certain risks and complications. These include weakness and loss of motion. In some cases, the tendon which is re-attached may detach from the kneecap or tears may recur. Other complications such as pain, infection and blood clot may be observed.

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