Patellar resurfacing is optional during total knee replacement (TKR). Some surgeons always resurface the patella, some never resurface, and others selectively resurface. Which resurfacing strategy provides optimal outcomes is unclear. We assessed the effectiveness of patellar resurfacing, no resurfacing, and selective resurfacing in primary TKR.

A systematic review and meta-analysis was performed. MEDLINE, Embase, Web of Science, The Cochrane Library, and bibliographies were searched to November 2021 for randomised-control trials (RCTs) comparing outcomes for two or more resurfacing strategies (resurfacing, no resurfacing, or selective resurfacing) in primary TKR. Observational studies were included if limited or no RCTs existed for resurfacing comparisons. Outcomes assessed were patient reported outcome measures (PROMs), complications, and further surgery. Study-specific relative risks [RR] were aggregated using random-effects models. Quality of the evidence was assessed using GRADE.

We identified 33 RCTs involving 5,540 TKRs (2,727 = resurfacing, 2,772 = no resurfacing, 41 = selective resurfacing). One trial reported on selective resurfacing. Patellar resurfacing reduced anterior knee pain compared with no resurfacing (RR = 0.65 (95% CI = 0.44-0.96)); there were no significant differences in PROMs. Resurfacing reduced the risk of revision surgery (RR = 0.63, CI = 0.42-0.94) and other complications (RR = 0.54, CI = 0.39-0.74) compared with no resurfacing. Quality of evidence ranged from high to very low. Limited observational evidence (5 studies, TKRs = 215,419) suggested selective resurfacing increased the revision risk (RR = 1.14, CI = 1.05-1.22) compared with resurfacing. Compared with no resurfacing, selective resurfacing had a higher risk of pain (RR = 1.25, CI = 1.04-1.50) and lower risk of revision (RR = 0.92, CI = 0.85-0.99).

Level 1 evidence supports TKR with patellar resurfacing over no resurfacing. Resurfacing has a reduced risk of anterior knee pain, revision surgery, and complications, despite PROMs being comparable. High-quality RCTs involving selective resurfacing, the most common strategy in the UK and other countries, are needed given the limited observational data suggests selective resurfacing may not be effective over other strategies.