Patella Alta

Patella Alta, commonly referred to as a “high riding patella,” is a condition where the kneecap (patella) is positioned higher than usual on the femur. This anatomical variation can affect both athletes and non-athletes alike, leading to knee pain and mobility issues. This article aims to discuss the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options for Patella Alta, with a focus on the role of imaging in managing this condition.

Causes and Symptoms of Patella Alta

The causes of Patella Alta can vary, ranging from congenital issues, meaning it is present from birth, to developmental changes during growth. Some people may experience this condition due to a traumatic injury that affects the knee joint’s alignment or due to certain genetic predispositions that affect the way their body structures, like ligaments and bones, develop.

Symptoms often include instability of the knee, a sensation of the knee “giving way,” and difficulty with activities that involve bending the knee such as running, jumping, or climbing stairs. People with Patella Alta may also report frequent knee pain, which can get worse during physical activities.

Role of Imaging in Diagnosing Patella Alta

Imaging techniques play an important role in diagnosing Patella Alta. These medical imaging tools not only confirm the presence of a high riding patella but also help in assessing the severity of the condition.

X-ray Evaluation

The first step in imaging for Patella Alta typically involves an X-ray. An X-ray of the knee joint provides a clear picture of the bone structure, allowing doctors to measure the patellar height using specific indices like the Insall-Salvati ratio or the Caton-Deschamps index. These measurements help in objectively confirming the diagnosis of Patella Alta.

MRI and Its Advantages

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) offers a more detailed view of the knee’s internal structures, including bones, cartilage, tendons, and ligaments. This is particularly useful in evaluating any soft tissue abnormalities that might accompany Patella Alta. MRI can also assist in identifying related complications such as patellar tendinitis or cartilage damage, which are common in cases where the patella is misaligned.

Treatment Options for Patella Alta

Treatment for Patella Alta depends on the severity of the condition and the specific symptoms experienced by the patient. Mild cases might be managed with physical therapy aimed at strengthening the muscles around the knee to improve stability. Orthotic devices such as knee braces or taping can also provide support and alleviate discomfort.

In more severe cases, surgical options may be considered. These surgeries aim to realign the patella and restore normal knee function, which might include procedures like a tibial tubercle transfer or lateral release surgery. These are considered when conservative treatments have failed.


Patella Alta is a condition that requires careful diagnosis and management to prevent long-term knee issues. Imaging, particularly through X-rays and MRI, plays an important role in accurately diagnosing and assessing the extent of the condition. Effective treatment may range from physical therapy to surgery.   With the right medical approach, individuals suffering from Patella Alta can achieve significant relief from symptoms and improve their quality of life. This emphasizes the importance of precise diagnosis through imaging methods.

Disclaimer: The content of this website is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended as, nor should it be considered a substitute for, professional medical advice. Do not use the information on this website for diagnosing or treating any medical or health condition. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider.

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