A lateral release is a surgical procedure used to help realign the kneecap. The kneecap moves up and down in a groove on the end of the thigh bone as the knee bends.
In some patients, the kneecap is abnormally pulled towards the outside of its groove. When the kneecap does not slide well within the groove, cartilage irritation and pain can result. There are several causes of patellar maltracking (the name given to the kneecap being pulled to the outside), and the most common is tight tissue attached to the outside of the kneecap (the lateral retinaculum).
Lateral release is best for patient with excessive patellar tilt, or a knee cap that moves as the leg is bent back and forth. When the lateral retinaculum is too tight, it can act as a tether to the kneecap. A lateral release is a procedure performed to cut through this tight retinaculum, and allow the kneecap to sit properly within its groove.
The lateral release procedure is an outpatient procedure that includes a post operative physical therapy regimen.