Background: Medial patellofemoral ligament (MPFL) reconstruction for patellar instability is a commonly performed procedure with a reported high rate of return to preinjury activity. However, no previous study has assessed the functional outcomes of military servicemembers undergoing MPFL reconstruction. Hypothesis: Primary MPFL reconstruction confers patellar stability, but with limited return to preinjury function and ability to maintain unrestricted military active duty status. Study Design: Case series; Level of evidence, 4. Methods: Using the Management Analysis and Reporting Tool database, we conducted a retrospective review of active duty servicemembers throughout the US Department of Defense Health System who underwent primary MPFL reconstruction between 2012 and 2015. Demographic variables were recorded as well as ability to return to impact activities—defined as running, jumping, rucking with a load >40 pounds (18 kg), and returning to airborne operations—and to remain on active duty status. The rates of recurrent instability and the need for subsequent surgeries were identified and assessed for statistical significance using uni- and multivariate analyses. Patients were evaluated for a minimum of 2 years postoperatively. Results: Of the 213 patients who underwent primary MPFL reconstruction, including 34 with concomitant tibial tubercle osteotomy, 19 (8.9%) patients developed recurrent instability. The presence of bilateral patellar instability was associated with higher recurrence rate. Patients with bilateral instability comprised 47.3% of those with recurrence but only 24.9% of patients without recurrence (P =.019). Impact activity restrictions were present in 57.6% of patients (n = 121), with 86 patients (52.1%) undergoing medical separation from the military. Patients who were prescribed activity restriction before surgery were significantly more likely to have postoperative activity restrictions (64.5%; P =.019), and junior enlisted servicemembers were more likely to be medically separated from service postoperatively than higher ranking senior enlisted members or officers. Conclusion: Only 42.4% of US military servicemembers undergoing primary MPFL reconstruction were able to return to unrestricted impact activity after surgery. Bilateral instability negatively affected return to impact activities. Military servicemembers, particularly junior enlisted members, should be counseled on this poor prognosis for a full return to unrestricted activity postoperatively.
- medial patellofemoral ligament
- patellar instability
- return to duty
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Orthopedics and Sports Medicine