Does medial patellofemoral ligament reconstruction result in femoral tunnel enlargement? A systematic review

Diego Agustín Abelleyra Lastoria, Vathana Gopinath, Omkaar Divekar, Toby O. Smith, Tobias Roberts, Caroline Hing

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Background: Medial patellofemoral ligament (MPFL) reconstruction is a common surgical procedure for treating patellar instability. The primary aim of this systematic review was to determine whether MPFL reconstruction (MPFLR) leads to femoral tunnel enlargement (FTE). The secondary aims were to explore the clinical effects and risk factors of FTE.

Electronic databases (MEDLINE, Global Health, Embase), currently registered studies, conference proceedings and the reference lists of included studies were searched independently by three reviewers. There were no constraints based on language or publication status. Study quality assessment was conducted.

3,824 records were screened in the initial search. Seven studies satisfied the inclusion criteria, evaluating 380 knees in 365 patients. Rates of FTE following MPFLR ranged from 38.7% to 77.1%. Five low quality studies reported FTE did not lead to detrimental clinical outcomes as assessed with the Tegner, Kujala, IKDC, and Lysholm scores. There is conflicting evidence regarding change in femoral tunnel width over time. Three studies (of which two had a high risk of bias) reported age, BMI, presence of trochlear dysplasia and tibial tubercle-tibial groove (TT-TG) distance did not differ between patients with and without FTE, suggesting these are not risk factors for FTE.

Conclusion: FTE is a common postoperative event following MPFLR. It does not predispose poor clinical outcomes. Current evidence lacks the ability to identify its risk factors. The reliability of any conclusions drawn is hindered by the low level of evidence of the studies included in this review. Larger prospective studies with long-term follow up are required to reliably ascertain the clinical effects of FTE.
Original languageEnglish
Article number13
JournalKnee Surgery & Related Research
Publication statusPublished - 2 May 2023


  • Medial patellofemoral ligament reconstruction
  • femoral tunnel widening
  • clinical outcomes
  • risk factors
  • systematic review
  • Femoral tunnel widening
  • Systematic review
  • Clinical outcomes
  • Risk factors

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