Patella Realignment (Knee Cap Realignment, Lateral Release)

Most people’s kneecaps (patellas) glide up and down along a groove in their femurs (or thigh bones) as they move. However, misalignment of the kneecap can lead to pain and instability, and the kneecap can even slide out of place (subluxate) or dislocate entirely. Patella realignment can fix or greatly reduce all of these problems, and it can usually be performed arthroscopically.

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Provider List

2900 12th Avenue North #140W & #100E
Billings, MT 59101
(406) 237-5050

What is an Arthroscope

An arthroscope is a small flexible tool with a camera attached to the end that can be inserted through a small incision so the surgeon can see inside and around the knee. Using an arthroscope, your surgeon will be able to look on a screen at the joint and surgical instruments so that the procedure can be conducted without any large incisions.

When Procedure is Used

In order to realign the kneecap, you may benefit from a lateral release during which the doctor cuts the tissue pulling the kneecap out of alignment. However, you will likely only consider this surgical option after you have tried nonsurgical methods such as rest, stretching, and physical therapy. Surgical patella realignment is more commonly performed if you are experiencing subluxation or dislocation, and it is even combined with other procedures in some cases.

During Surgery

You will most likely be given a general anesthesia to make sure you relax your muscles and to prevent pain. Depending on your surgeon’s preference and your health, you will have eiether a spinal or general anesthetic administered. General anethesia will put you to sleep and spinal anesthesia may leave you awake or sedated, but unable to feel pain from your waist down. Your surgeon will then make multiple small incisions, including one for the scope itself and additional ones for the surgical instruments. In order to “release” the patella from the tension pulling it slightly out of place, the tissue to one side of it will be cut. If necessary, your surgeon may perform additional procedures to increase the stability of your knee.


The risk of complications is very low. However, potential risks might include

  • allergic reactions to medications
  • nerve damage
  • bleeding or blood clots
  • infection
  • injury to surrounding tissues
  • numbness


  • elimination of or decrease in pain
  • improvement in knee function and stability
  • increase in strength

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