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Patellar Tendon Repair


What you need to know about patellar tendon repair:

Patellar tendon repair is surgery to fix your torn patellar tendon. The patellar tendon attaches the bottom of your kneecap to your shin bone. The tendon works together with your muscles and ligaments to bend and extend your leg.

How to prepare for surgery:

  • Your surgeon will tell you how to prepare. He or she may tell you not to eat or drink anything after midnight before surgery. Arrange to have someone drive you home after surgery.
  • Your surgeon will tell you if you need to stop any medicine for surgery, and when to stop. He or she will tell you which medicines to take or not take on the day of surgery.
  • Tell your surgeon about any allergies you have. Tell him or her if you had an allergic reaction to anesthesia or any medicine.
  • You may need blood or urine tests before your surgery. You may also need x-rays, a CT scan, or an MRI of your knee. Talk to your healthcare provider about these or other tests you may need. Write down the date, time, and location for each test.

What will happen during surgery:

  • An incision will be made in the front of your knee. Your surgeon will find the torn ends of the tendon and trim them. He or she will sew the ends back together. If the tendon is not attached to bone, your surgeon will drill small holes in the end of your thigh bone. He or she will sew stitches onto the tendon, insert the stitches through the holes, and tie them. A tendon from another part of your body may be used. This tendon may be added to your patellar tendon so it reaches the bone where it will be attached. Wires or medical tape will also be passed through the drilled holes to add strength to the tendon.
  • If a large piece of bone broke off with the tendon during the injury, it may be reattached with screws. Your surgeon will compare your knees to make sure the repaired knee is in the correct position. The incision will be closed with stitches and wrapped with a bandage. A brace, splint, or cast will be placed on your knee to keep it from moving while it heals.

What to expect after surgery:

  • Medicines may be given to prevent or treat pain, nausea, or a bacterial infection.
  • You will be helped to walk around after surgery. Movement will help prevent blood clots.
  • You may need physical therapy. A physical therapist teaches you exercises to help improve movement and strength and to decrease pain. Physical therapy may begin while you are in the hospital and continue when you get home.
  • You may need to use crutches or a cane so you do not put any weight on your knee. Your healthcare provider will tell you when you can walk on your injured leg again.

Risks of patellar tendon repair:

You may bleed more than expected or get an infection. Your knee function may not return to the way it was before surgery. You may get a blood clot in your leg. This may become life-threatening.

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

  • You feel lightheaded, short of breath, and have chest pain.
  • You cough up blood.

Seek care immediately if:

  • Your leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.
  • Your toes feel numb, tingly, cool, and are pale.
  • Blood soaks through your bandage.
  • Your stitches come apart.
  • You have severe pain.

Call your doctor or surgeon if:

  • You have a fever or chills.
  • Your wound is red, swollen, or draining pus.
  • You have more pain or trouble moving, even after you take pain medicine.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


You may need any of the following:

  • Prescription pain medicine may be given. Ask your healthcare provider how to take this medicine safely. Some prescription pain medicines contain acetaminophen. Do not take other medicines that contain acetaminophen without talking to your healthcare provider. Too much acetaminophen may cause liver damage. Prescription pain medicine may cause constipation. Ask your healthcare provider how to prevent or treat constipation.
  • Antibiotics prevent or treat a bacterial infection.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him or her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Care for the surgery area as directed:

Carefully wash the area with soap and water. Dry the area and put on new, clean bandages as directed. Change your bandages when they get wet or dirty. If you have pieces of medical tape over your incision, do not pull them off. They will start to peel off on their own within 2 weeks.


  • Elevate (raise) your knee above the level of your heart as often as you can. This will help decrease swelling and pain. Prop your leg on pillows or blankets to keep it elevated comfortably. Do not put the pillow directly under your knee.
    Elevate Leg
  • Apply ice on your knee for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel before you apply it to your knee. Ice helps prevent tissue damage and decreases swelling and pain.

Use assistive devices as directed:

  • You may need to use crutches or a cane for support when you walk. These devices help decrease stress and strain on your knee. You may need to limit the amount of weight you put on your knee. Ask for more information about how to use crutches or a cane correctly.
    Walking with Crutches
  • You may need to wear a brace, splint, or cast after surgery. These will help protect your knee and keep it from moving so it can heal properly. Ask for more information about how to care for your brace, splint, or cast.

Go to physical therapy, if directed:

A physical therapist teaches you exercises to help improve movement and strength and to decrease pain.

Follow up with your doctor or surgeon as directed:

You may need to return to have your wound checked or stitches removed. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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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.

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