To identify and review early complications in the operative treatment of patella fractures.

Retrospective review.

Single tertiary care institution with multiple surgeons, including generalists and fellowship trained subspecialists.

A consecutive series of eighty-seven patella fractures over a five year period was reviewed. Patients treated nonoperatively or with partial or total patellectomy were excluded. Minimum follow-up to fracture healing (four months) was available in fifty-one fractures.

Modified tension band wire fixation was used in forty-nine fractures, whereas two fractures were treated with tension band wires threaded through cannulated screws.

Early complications such as loss of reduction or fixation, infection, or soft-tissue problems were evaluated.

Displacement of > or = 2 mm before healing was noted in eleven fractures. The displacement could be attributed to technical errors in five cases, and to patient noncompliance with postoperative activity restrictions in another five cases. Two cases of superficial infection were documented. Nine patients with symptomatic hardware required hardware removal.

Twenty-two percent of fractures treated with tension band wiring and early motion displaced > or = 2 mm within the early postoperative period. Technical errors or patient noncompliance were identified as factors. The incidence of early complications in operatively treated patella fractures is higher than previously reported.

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