Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

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Knee Fracture Pathologic Anatomy

To better understand pathologic knee fracture, it helps to understand the anatomy of the knee joint.

Four bones come together at the knee joint:

  • Patella:
    • Kneecap
  • Femur:
    • Thighbone
  • Tibia:
    • Thick bone in the front of the lower leg
  • Fibula:
    • Thin bone on the side of the lower leg

The tibia supports all of the body's weight below the knee joint. The tibia and femur form the major portion of the knee joint, and the patella protects the front of the knee.

Bones of the knee:
  • Knee muscles and bones
  • Knee bones and x-ray

The main tendons in knee include:
  • Quadriceps tendon: attaches the quadriceps muscle to the kneecap
  • Patellar tendon: attaches the patella to the tibia
  • Popliteus tendon: extends from the outer bottom surface of the femur and travels diagonally behind the knee to attach to the inner upper surface of the tibia.
  • Hamstring tendons: attach the hamstring muscles to the tibia
  • Calf tendons: attach the calf muscles to the femur

Knee Ligaments
Strong fibrous bands, called ligaments, support the knee. Injuries to the knee ligaments are common.

The knee ligaments include:
  • Lateral collateral ligament: stabilizes the knee from stress applied to the sides of the knee
  • Medial collateral ligament: stabilizes the knee from stress applied to the sides of the knee
  • Posterior cruciate ligament: stabilizes the knee from stress applied to the front or back of the knee
  • Anterior cruciate ligament: stabilizes the knee from stress applied to the front or back of the knee

Knee Cartilage
Cartilage is a very smooth, firm layer of tissue that lines all of the joints in the body. Two discs of cartilage, called the medial meniscus, and lateral meniscus, line the inside of the knee. Torn cartilage refers to an injury to a meniscus.

Last Updated: Dec 22, 2010 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Knee Fracture Pathologic References
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  4. Hoch AZ, Pepper M, Akuthota V. Stress fractures and knee injuries in runners. Phys Med Rehabil Clin N Am. 2005 Aug;16(3):749-77. [16005402]
  5. Khan Z, Faruqui Z, Ogyunbiyi O, Rosset G, Iqbal J. Ultrasound assessment of internal derangement of the knee. Acta Orthop Belg. 2006 Jan;72(1):72-6. [16570898]
  6. Woo SL, Abramowitch SD, Kilger R, Liang R. Biomechanics of knee ligaments: injury, healing, and repair. J Biomech. 2006;39(1):1-20. [16271583]
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