It is not a discrete anatomical structure but has complex anatomy which is difficult to delineate because of converging and interdigitating structures. There is no common agreement as to their nomenclature or exactly which of the structures comprise the lateral retinaculum -
The lateral retinaculum is surgically released (cut) during the procedure known as 'lateral release' or 'lateral retinacular release', but it is becoming recognised amongst knee surgeons that this procedure has been inappropriately used in the past, and lateral release for lateral patellar instability (when the kneecap dislocates to the outside of the knee) has often contributed to the patient suffering instead from medial patellar instability (when the kneecap dislocates to the inside of the knee).
Fewer and fewer knee surgeons are using the procedure of lateral release and for fewer indications.
1. Merican AM, Sanghavi S, Iranpour F and Amis AA. The structural properties of the lateral retinaculum and capsular complex of the knee. J Biomech. 2009,42(14): 2323–2329. [Click here for open access]