Patella Tendon Repair

What you should know

  • Patellar tendon repair is surgery to fix your damaged patellar tendon. Tendons connect muscles to bones, and together with muscles, work to move your arms, legs, fingers, and toes. The patellar tendon is located at the knee. It attaches to the front of the tibia (shin bone) and bottom of the patella (kneecap). Patellar tendon repair is done when the tendon is partially or completely torn. A complete tendon rupture may be acute or chronic based on the duration of time from injury. Injuries that occurred within six weeks are considered as acute, and after six weeks they are chronic. Distal tendon ruptures (tendon ruptures far from the knee) are injuries that usually need surgery. The repair will depend on the location, duration, and extent of the injury, and the age of the patient.

  • During surgery, caregivers repair the injured patellar tendon by reattaching the ends back together. The tendon may also be sewn to the bone using special tools, such as buttons and screws. This is usually done for chronic tendon injuries. Tendons taken from other parts of the body may also be used to replace damaged tendons. After surgery you may need a splint or cast to protect the tendon and help it heal. You may need to do special exercises to help build the strength back in your knees. With repair of the patellar tendon, your regular knee movements may be returned, and normal activities restored.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.


  • There are always risks with surgery. You could get an infection, bleed too much, or have trouble breathing. Sometimes, even after surgery, the knee may not go back to the way it was before. You may get a blood clot in your leg or arm. This can cause pain and swelling, and it can stop blood from flowing where it needs to go in your body. The blood clot can break loose and travel to your lungs. A blood clot in your lungs can cause chest pain and trouble breathing. This problem can be life-threatening.

  • If you do not have surgery, the pain and problems you have when moving your knee or leg may worsen. Your knee may get weak or you may have problems walking. You may have trouble going back to your usual activities, including sports. Call your caregiver if you are worried or have questions about your injury, treatment, or care.

Getting Ready

The week before surgery:

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

The night before surgery:

  • Remove any nail polish.

  • You may be given medicine to help you sleep.

  • Ask caregivers about directions for eating and drinking.

The day of surgery:

  • Write down the correct date, time, and location of your surgery.

  • What to bring: You may want to bring items such as a toothbrush and bathrobe.

  • Ask your caregiver before taking any medicine on the day of your surgery. These medicines include insulin, diabetic pills, high blood pressure pills, or heart pills. Bring all the medicines you are taking, including the pill bottles, with you to the hospital.

  • Bring with you any papers your caregiver has given you to sign.

  • If you wear contact lenses, do not wear them on the day of your procedure or surgery. Glasses may be worn.

  • Do not wear tight-fitting clothes on the day of your procedure or surgery.

  • Caregivers may insert an intravenous tube (IV) into your vein. A vein in the arm is usually chosen. Through the IV tube, you may be given liquids and medicine.

  • An anesthesiologist may talk to you before your surgery. This caregiver may give you medicine to make you sleepy before your surgery. Tell your caregiver if you or any member of your family has had a problem using anesthesia in the past.

  • You or a close family member will be asked to sign a legal piece of paper (consent form). It gives your caregiver permission to do the surgery. It also explains the problems that may happen, and your choices. Be sure all your questions have been answered before you sign this form.


What will happen:

  • You will be asked to change into a hospital gown. You may be given medicine to help you relax or make you drowsy. You will be taken on a stretcher to the room where your surgery will be done. Medicine called anesthesia will be given to keep you free from pain during the surgery. You will be placed on your back and a pillow will be placed under your hip. Your lower leg will be cleaned with soap and water and then covered with sheets.

  • Caregivers will make an incision (cut) in the front of your knee, over the injured joint. The joint is checked and the torn ends are identified. Caregivers will reattach the torn tendon by sewing the ends back together or to the bone. If the tendon will be sewn on the bone, holes will be drilled where stitches (threads) will be passed through. A tendon taken from another part of your body may be used. This is done to make the shortened tendon longer so it reaches the bone where it will be attached. The incision will be closed with stitches and wrapped with a bandage. Your knee will be put in a splint or brace to keep it from moving so it can heal.

After surgery:

You are taken to a room where your heart and breathing will be monitored. Do not get out of bed until your caregiver says it is okay. A bandage may cover wounds to help prevent infection. You may be able to go home after some time passes. If you had general anesthetic, an adult will need to drive you home. Your driver or someone else should stay with you for 24 hours. If you cannot go home, you will be taken to a hospital room.

Waiting area:

This is an area where your family and friends can wait until you are able to have visitors. Ask your visitors to provide a way to reach them if they leave the waiting area.

Contact a caregiver if

  • You cannot make it to your surgery appointment on time.

  • You have a fever.

  • You have a skin infection or a wound near the injured knee.

  • You have questions or concerns about your surgery.

Seek Care Immediately if

  • The problems for which you are having surgery get worse.

  • You have a lot more pain or trouble moving around.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.