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New insight in the architecture of the quadriceps tendon

Karl Grob, Mirjana Manestar, Luis Filgueira, Timothy Ackland, Helen Gilbey & Markus S Kuster

abstract

BACKGROUND
Published data regarding the structure of the quadriceps tendon are diverse. Dissection of the quadriceps muscle group revealed that beside the rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus intermedius and vastus medialis a fifth muscle component- named the tensor vastus intermedius consistently fused into quadriceps tendon. It can be hypothesized that all these elements of the extensor apparatus of the knee joint must also be represented in the quadriceps tendon. This study investigated the multi-layered quadriceps tendon with special emphasis on all components of the quadriceps muscle group including the newly discovered tensor vastus intermedius.

METHODS
Ten cadaveric lower limbs were dissected. All muscle bellies of the extensor apparatus of the knee joint were identified and traced distally until they merged into the quadriceps tendon. Connections between the different aponeurotic layers of each muscle were studied from origin to insertion. The fusing points of each layer were marked. Their distance to the patella and the distances between the fusing points were measured.

RESULTS
Six elements of the quadriceps muscle group form a tri-laminar structure of the quadriceps tendon. The intermediate layer could be further sub-divided. The elements of the quadriceps tendon are 1. lateral aponeurosis of the vastus intermedius, 2. deep and 3. superficial medial aponeurosis of the vastus intermedius, 4. vastus lateralis, 5. tensor vastus intermedius and 6. rectus femoris. Even with differences in fiber direction - these elements join each other a certain distance proximal to the patella. All elements were fused over a region measuring 13 to 90 mm proximal to the patella. Lateral parts of the vastus intermedius formed the deepest layer of the quadriceps tendon. The superficial and deep layer of the medial vastus intermedius aponeurosis fused 56 mm (range, 30 to 90 mm) and 33 mm (range, 13 to 53 mm) above the patella with the aponeurosis of the tensor vastus intermedius and vastus lateralis respectively. Together they built the two-layered intermediate layer of the quadriceps tendon. The tendon of the rectus femoris forms the superficial layer. The vastus medialis inserts medially in all layers of the quadriceps tendon. Fibers of the lateral muscle components were oriented towards the medial, and fibers of the medial muscle components were oriented towards the lateral femoral condyle.

CONCLUSIONS
The three-layered quadriceps tendon is formed by six elements. These are 1. lateral aponeurosis of the vastus intermedius, 2. deep and 3. superficial medial aponeurosis of the vastus intermedius, 4. vastus lateralis, 5. tensor vastus intermedius and 6. rectus femoris. These elements of the extensor apparatus join each other proximal to the patella in a complex onion-like architecture. Its two-layered intermediate layer shows variable fusions points. The vastus medialis contributes to the quadriceps tendon with its medial insertion into all layers of the quadriceps tendon.
   
citation Grob K, Manestar M, Filgueira L, Ackland T, Gilbey H, Kuster M S. New insight in the architecture of the quadriceps tendon. J Exp Orthop 2016; 3:32.
   
type journal paper/review (English)
date of publishing 3-11-2016
journal title J Exp Orthop (3/1)
ISSN print 2197-1153
pages 32
PubMed 27813020
DOI 10.1186/s40634-016-0068-y
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