KneeCap Maltracking and Management

If the knee cap (patella) is shifting out of place on bending or straightening it, the person may be dealing with patellofemoral maltracking (PFM).


The knee is the largest joint in your body which is formed of the tibio-femoral and patellofemoral joint. The Patellofemoral joint is formed by the kneecap or Patella sitting over a groove (trochlea) on the lower end of the thigh bone or femur.

It helps in an effective transmission of the forces of the knee movements across the joint. Patellar Maltracking occurs due to an imbalance between the dynamic relationship of the patella and trochlea during the normal range of motion of the knee.

Skyline X-ray view of the patella.

Skyline X-ray view of the patella.

Patellofemoral biomechanics

To understand patellar maltracking first we will have to take a look into understanding how patella helps our leg to bend (flex) and straighten (extend) smoothly. The patellofemoral joint functions as a pulley for the quadriceps muscle to facilitate knee extension and reduce friction.

It is subjected to large amounts of load acting as a pulley. To provide better flexibility and maintain its functions both the bones have ligaments and cartilage to provide support and protection against instability. A small amount of side to side excursion is normally present. Tight tissues(ligaments and tendons) on the inner and outer side of the knee provide stability to the knee cap.


Undue stress on the patellofemoral joint from maltracking will lead to loss and attrition in the articular cartilage of the patellofemoral joint leading to early osteoarthritis with severe limitations of day to day life.

  • Anterior Knee Pain: A chronic pain usually in front of the knee.
  • Knee Giving Away: Symptoms of knee giving away may be present especially while walking or running. This may be associated with a sensation of grinding or popping every time the knee is moved. When they try to extend their knee it may feel like getting caught or the feeling that the knee won’t support them on standing.
  • Episodes of dislocation: At times the patella might dislocate with excruciating pain and swelling. They may be able to relocate the patella by themselves but the episodes become frequent damaging the cartilage.

Causes & Predisposing Factors

Traumatic Injuries : Athletes and people who are physically active may suffer from injuries surrounding the knee cap which is why patellar maltracking disorder often affects young active adults. Often chronic overuse with underlying loss of structural support will lead to patellofemoral maltracking.

  • Hereditary dysplastic knee cap : People may have a inherited malformed/dysplastic knee cap or the Trochlea. The dysplastic bone does not move into the set tract leading to instability
  • Patella Alta : A high riding patella (Patella Alta) often leads to instability and maltracking. These patients often have a generalised inherited joint laxity.
  • Others : bow legs (genu valgum), congenital intoeing (increased femoral anteversion, tibial torsion), tight or lax stabilizing structures on either side of the patella cause patellofemoral maltracking.


Early diagnosis is essential to prevent or stop the progression of cartilage loss and osteoarthritis.

  • History : A detailed history about the clinical symptoms and restrictions of activity is taken.
  • Physical Examination : For the physician to understand the dynamic movement of the patella commonly referred to as Patellar Tracking  a thorough physical examination of the knee becomes necessary. The physician will conduct some clinical tests and take measurements.
  • Q Angle : Q angle is an imaginary angle between the thigh and the patella which is used to measure the degree of patellar engagement in the trochlea. Increased Q angle is usually associated with PFM.
  • Imaging : Assessment includes radiograph (x-ray) which is helpful in acute presentation. MRI and CT imaging may be needed and are superior modalities in looking for predisposing factors. MRI allows detailed evaluation of the morphology and structure of the joint especially helpful in guiding operative management.


The goal is to recreate the stable dynamic relationship between the patella and the trochlea with a knee which is pain free. Many different approaches have been advocated for treatment.  Management can be nonoperative or operative which depends on the severity of the disease.

Non-Surgical Management

Nonoperative treatment generally consists of the use of anti-inflammatory medications, a short period of immobilization, followed by a focused physiotherapy regime with emphasis on range of motion, closed chain exercises, and vastus medialis obliquus (VMO) strengthening.

Recurrent patellar instability still occurs in between 15 and 45% of patients treated nonoperatively. Also the patients return to active sports can be as low, leaving many patients searching for further management options.

Operative Management

Operative management can be categorized as soft tissue procedures i.e not involving the bony structures and bony procedures.

Soft tissue Surgeries

Soft tissue procedures are used to repair or tighten loose and stretched soft tissues or release of the tight ligaments that contribute to patellar instability. They are best indicated in isolation in the setting of recurrent instability with minimal underlying bony malalignment.

Lateral Release :

A commonly used procedure is lateral release which is a knee arthroscopic surgery. Surgery is performed through small incisions and the tight ligament on the outer knee cap is released so as to allow the knee cap to settle towards the inside of the trochlea.

Medial PatelloFemoral Ligament (MPFL) Repair

Reconstruction of the Medial Patellofemoral Ligament (a ligament stabilising the inner side of patella preventing outward dislocation) is a procedure usually done for recurrent lateral patellar instability. The ligament provides vital inner side support to the patella. The ligament is tightened to provide stability to the knee cap.

Bony Procedures

When the underlying cause is bony malalignment, procedures such as:

  • Osteotomy : Tibial tubercle (part of tibia providing attachment to patellar tendon) transfer osteotomy can be performed. It involves cutting of the bone and changing the insertion of the patellar tendon, the procedure ultimately affect the position of patella engaging in the trochlea during range of motion. It also prevents the damaged articular cartilage from coming in contact therefore reducing pain and increasing stability.
  • Trochleoplasty : Lastly a procedure known as trochleoplasty may be indicated in the patient with significant trochlear dysplasia/malformation causing PFM. This procedure involves altering the shape of the trochlea so that the patella engages in the trochlea effectively during the range of motion.

If you have any above said symptoms or may think you’re suffering from patellar maltracking disorder, consider visiting an orthopaedic surgeon with expertise in knee arthroscopy.

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Dr. Nakul Karkare is awesome! And patriotic! Thank you, Dr. Karkare for displaying the American Flag in your waiting room, honoring and mourning our military personnel, this Memorial Day, who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.
00:52 30 May 23
Excellent and skilled orthopedic practice specializing in joint replacements. Dr Karkare was trained at the Hospital for Special Surgery and has excellent results, as do his associates!! Would gladly refer family members to the practice!!
00:24 30 May 23
I had such a wonderful experience with Complete Orthopedics in Stony Brook. Not only did Dr. Kuo fix my broken wrist with such kindness and care, but the office staff, including Billing, Reception and the X-Ray Technician, was always so helpful, going out of their way to ensure that each patient felt welcome, answering any questions with a smile, and ensuring any issues with insurance/billing were handled with the utmost professionalism. I highly recommend their practice!
Victoria DeMatteo
19:49 10 May 23
I'm very happy St. Catherine's sent me to this office for treatment after I broke my collar bone! Unfortunately the break was too severe to repair on its own and I had to have it rebuilt a week after the injury. Dr. Vaksha did a great job fixing it. I'm three months out, and I have full use of the arm and shoulder. The whole office staff is very professional, accommodating, and welcoming. I hope to not need orthopedic services again, but Dr. Vaksha will be my number one choice if I or anyone in family suffers such am injury.
Tina Rivera
20:42 08 May 23
No one likes going to the doctor. But these people make it painless. I go for knees, hips and shoulders. At almost 70 Complete Orthopedics keeps my active life style running smoothly. Whether chasing my Grandson and even surfing again, I highly recommend them!!
Thomas Slavin
15:02 02 Mar 23
Dr. Kuo knowledgeable and competent surgeon- very good experience and more importantly great result.
Joseph McCoy
21:23 25 Feb 23
Dr Vaksha was so kind and helpful. He took extra time with us and explained things so thoroughly. Highly recommend. Office very clean.
Susan Bosinius
20:20 19 Feb 23
Dr Vaksha, is a great doctor very professional knows what he talking about. Treat patient with upmost respect. Thank You
Troy Spencer
16:46 19 Jan 23
Dr. Karkare is an amazing doctor, very caring and attentive, the girl at the front desk is very kind and helpful. .elizabeth .thank you so much .
blanca ventura
21:32 26 Oct 22
Been going to this place before my accident and after I had my knee surgery. So happy how I been treated and how well I am getting. Thank you all and specially Dr. VAKSHA for everything and getting back on track.
Ita Opico
19:01 25 Oct 22
Love this place From the minute I called I was treated kindly. When I arrived The Dr saw me right away he was compassionate and ordered the appropriate tests for me. I came back in for my follow up and had the same great experience.
Christine Rostock
21:28 23 May 22
Dr Vaksha and Dr karkare are 2 of the best orthopedic doctors around my wife Susan had a very serious broken ankle in March of 2019 she didn't think she was going to walk again Dr vaksha did an excellent surgery on her ankle he said it was his toughest he ever did he put a lot of hardware in her ankle and told her she would be alright she made remarkable recovery thanks to his surgery as of now she regained 100 percent use of her ankle she would highly recommend him to anyone. My own experience with Dr karkare has been wonderful he takes his time with you listens to what you have to say and prescribes various treatments and is very caring I would highly recommend him to anyone I would give both doctors a 10 plus rating we are very happy with them the best.
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23:31 19 May 22
Complete orthopedics is a wonderful place to go when you hurt or injured a great staff and wonderful doctors very knowledgeable and helpful I would recommend this place to all of my family and friends that is in me of orthopedic care I give them 10 thumbs up
Wayne Pemberton
17:39 18 May 22
The staff is very professional and helpful. Dr. Vaksha is excellent. He takes time to listen and offer suggestions to help you get better. I’m very thankful and happy to be a patient here at Complete Orthopedics.
Phoenix Rising
19:54 16 May 22
Dr.Karkare is the best. He listens to everything and explains everything I recommend him to everyone. I am so happy he is my doctor.
Myrna James
00:48 13 May 22
Dr.Kuo is amazing very attentive,caring,and passionate and staff is awsome too.Thank you for everything Dr.kuo.
Erick Murillo
23:17 12 May 22
I was in a car accident November 1 I was referred to Dr. Vaksha For shoulder surgery . I he was amazing he made me feel very comfortable and explained everything that was going to happen from surgery all the way through my physical therapy highly recommend Dr. Vaksha
Yolanda Ojeda
19:37 09 May 22
My appointment with Dr. Vaksha was amazing. Dr. Vaksha was very thorough and kind. I would refer this office to anyone who needs a great orthopedic doctor.
John Senechal
19:54 05 May 22
Scheduling my appointment was quick and easy. The staff was super friendly and down to earth. I was seen on time. The appropriate test, “x-rays” were taken before the conversation with doctor, something I really liked, test for analysis and conversation was done upfront. Dr. V had a great personality and was no BS, straight forward diagnosis and a play on next steps. I am happy I found them and would refer them to friends and family.
00:46 03 May 22
I have seen Dr. Kuo two times already and he's awesome along with his staff. Very friendly office and I'm glad to be a patient here.
Camaris A
20:01 28 Apr 22
Amazing team!! Very caring, profesional, and friendly!! Dr. Kevin Kuo, you are the best, very passionate, caring, and helping thank you for getting me better and being so kind to me! Elizabeth you the best thank you for you help always and you big smile and positive actitud❤️🙏🏼
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19:01 22 Apr 22
The staff is truly exceptional, they make you feel comfortable and welcomed. The doctors are amazing,always professional, compassionate and great listeners.
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03:25 09 Apr 22
What a great place! The place is clean and organized.The staff is wonderful. Setting up physical therapy is right there as well.I'm so glad I found this place.
Donna Anne
22:45 05 Apr 22
This was my 1st time breaking something in my 27 years on this planet. I was recommended here by a friend Dr. Vashka helped me from day 1 and still continues to check in on me and my healing ankle. Would highly recommend
tyron davis
16:06 01 Apr 22
Brand new office, same great doctors! Rooms are clean, plenty of parking, physical therapy attached, Dr. Karkare and his staff are awesome. Thank you!
Emily B
02:49 24 Mar 22
Dr.VAksha is the best, I love the way he treats me as his patient, he is caring,understanding and very attentive to my needs
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14:53 03 Mar 22
Great staff. Dr. Vaksha is awesome and takes the time to listen to his patients. He is very compassionate. I would highly recommend this office.
Bebe Doyle
01:24 23 Feb 22
After suffering from a severe ankle injury Dr. V was able to help me heal and return back to work completely to a job where I stand for 12 hours a day. The office is very clean and I appreciated the reminders of my appointments via phone call and through text. The patient portal made it easy for me to access all my documents including work notes. The office staff is wonderful and Rebecca was able to schedule me with a busy schedule and awesome at answering all of my questions including referring me to a great physical therapy office. I highly recommend this office to anyone who’s looking for knowledgeable and kind orthopedic office.
Elizabeth Birchwell
21:31 28 Jan 21
The staff here are great, I was seen at the time of my appointment and was well taken care of!
Shaun Berry
18:14 07 Jan 21
They are an excellent practice. The front and back office people are amazing and so helpful. Rebecca is such a kind and understanding person. I had an issue with paperwork and she cleared it right up. Dr. Karkare is very knowledgeable, helpful, and caring.
Matt S.
19:31 18 Nov 20
Rebecca K. - What a true burst of sunshine. Very friendly and definitely an asset to the practice!
Laura Aston
18:17 17 Nov 20
Great experience, the Doctor is nice but the staff is incredible. I worked with Linda, who was profession and assisted me beyond what any person has done at other practices. Complete Ortho should be complimented for having such a person on their staff.I highly recommend this place!!!
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17:26 17 Nov 20
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16:45 17 Nov 20
I was rear ended in an auto accident , Dr Vashka was recommended by a friend of mine .I was experiencing Back , neck , and shoulder pain . After a thorough examination and given exercises to do at home , I am feeling much better , and I ended up avoiding surgery . The staff at Complete Ortho is extremely attentive and show great care when making an appointment and are very friendly and i never waited more than 5 minutes for my appointment . So I would strongly recommend Complete Orthopedics for any aches and pains that one might be experiencing.....
Bill Becht
04:44 17 Nov 20
It was the afternoon of Friday Sept. 24. We were in Pt. Jefferson and my wife, Mary Ann, broke her hip. We went to Mather Hospital and it was determined that she would have to have an operation to have it repaired. This would be her third time under the knife in the past year. It just so happened that we were very fortunate enough to have Dr. Karkare, who was on standby, perform the surgery. He put in a rod and two screws in her hip. She spent a few days in the hospital and then went to Gurwin rehabilitee for another few weeks.It has now been almost six weeks and we both worked the election the other day. If it wasn’t for Dr. Karkare’s expertise she never would have been able to work. She is able to walk with a walker and is doing physical therapy three times a week.We can not thank the doctor enough for the compassion and dedication that he puts into his work. It allows Mary Ann do the things that she likes to do, even on a limited basis for a while. I know that with her will, perseverance and the great work that the surgeon performed she will be back on her feet in no time.Sincerely:John V. PlumpEast Northport, NY 11731
Jack Harris
14:36 06 Nov 20
In the year of 2018 I was referred to Dr. Karkare because I was experiencing severe knee joint pain. After exhausting physical therapy and trying to labor through the pain, I had to make a quality of life decision. Total knee replacement was the only viable option. Dr. Karkare made my decision easy as he walked me through the whole process from surgery to recovery.On 12/13/19 ( Friday the 13th) I enter Lenox Hill Hospital in great hands. From the time I entered Dr. Karkare’s office for the first time until now, his staff has been amazing. Andrea the medical coordinator walked me through all the paper work and necessary preparations for the surgery. Courtesy and kind would be an understatement. Dr. Karkare went over and beyond from the wellness checks and phone calls all to assure me that I was important to him. This was the right decision no pain and no limp. Complete Orthopedics should be your choice!
Kenneth Randolph
22:18 25 Sep 20
Dr. Vadshka has a great bedside manner. He really takes his time and explains treatment options.
T Lee
12:33 09 Sep 20
I suffered with pain in both knees for years. My orthopedic doctor kept recommending knee replacement . I fought it for years, as I was just afraid. When I had no choice and could barely walk , it was recommended I see Dr. Karkare. We set up a consultation and my wife and I left his office feeling totally confident and comfortable with moving ahead with the surgery. He explained everything to us, and the office staff set everything up for us and made the process easy. So about one month after our initial meeting I had the first knee done. I was up walking mere hours after the surgery, and on the workout machines the next morning. I went home two days after the surgery, and yes walked my daughter down the aisle at her wedding only one week after the surgery without even a cane! Three months later I had the other knee done and went home the very next day. Dr. Karkare put my fears to rest . I would highly recommend him. His expertise gave me my life back. Thank you Dr. Karkare.SincerelyVito Congro
Ethel Congo
23:58 12 Aug 20
Dr Rhodin really cares for his patients. When I see him he makes sure to review my progress in detail.
Micki Cahill
15:03 08 Feb 20
My mom had a total hip replacement by dr karkare. He is the BEST orthopedic doctor.Her incision is almost invisable.She is going back for her other hip next week. The office staff is the best, love Andrea.You wont find a better doctor.
Ryan Brigandi
21:06 13 Jul 18
There is no better Orthopedic doctor you will find. Broke my ankle three places on a Saturday. Called Dr. Karkare. He had is team ready at the hospital and operated on me within 6 hours after my injury. Now After 3 months of great care by him and his staff, I am walking to normalcy.
Spacecom Tel
04:13 23 Mar 18

I am Vedant Vaksha, Fellowship trained Spine, Sports and Arthroscopic Surgeon at Complete Orthopedics. I take care of patients with ailments of the neck, back, shoulder, knee, elbow and ankle. I personally approve this content and have written most of it myself.

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