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Posterolateral corner

Popliteus muscle and tendon

This illustration shows the back of the right knee. The postero-lateral corner is the region on the outer side at the back of the knee. Its anatomy is complicated, and injury to the posterolateral corner may be difficult to assess and to manage.

One of the key structures in this area is the popliteus muscle and its tendon. The muscle arises on the tibia bone and wraps around the back of the tibia to attach via its tendon on the outer aspect of the femur at the side of the knee joint.

Related to the popliteus muscle and tendon is the politeofibular ligament. It arises on the fibula bone and then merges with the popliteus tendon.


posterolateral corner



This next illustration is of the same region. We have simply added in the capsule of the knee - which encloses the joint and makes it water-tight.

But look carefully at the region of the posterolateral corner. Here there is a deficiency in the capsule where the poplilteus tendon actually goes into the joint space itself. This means that injuries in this region - the posterolateral corner - often involve the capsule as well as the tendon and ligament. Note that the arcuate ligament is really part of the capsule where it loops over the popliteus tendon.

When the surgeon looks into the join during arthroscopy he is looking within the capsule. He is normally able to see the popliteus tendon as it passes inside the joint. If it is ruptured a careful surgeon should be able to see this during arthroscopy.



anatomy of the side of the knee



If we rotated the two illustrations above, so that one looks at the right knee from the outer aspect, you can see yet another of the important structures of the postero-lateral corner - the lateral collateral ligament (also called the fibular collateral ligament). This spans the outside of the joint from the fibula bone to the femur, and is an important stabilising structure. You can see that it is outside the capsule, so the surgeon will not be able to see during arthroscopy if it is broken.

There are other important structures in this region, but these are the main ones.


Further reading

Open access article - Recondo JA, Salvador E, Villanúa JA, Barrera MC, Gervás C, Alústiza JM.Lateral stabilizing structures of the knee: functional anatomy and injuries assessed with MR imaging.Radiographics. 2000 Oct;20 Spec No:S91-S102.

Updated: 15 Apr, 2013
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