Medical Definition of Patella

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Patella: The kneecap by another name, the patella is the small bone that is in the front of the knee.

The patella is a sesamoid bone, a little bone (sesamoid = like a sesame seed) that is embedded in a joint capsule or tendon, in this case the tendon of insertion of the quadriceps muscle (the "quad"). The patella in an adult is about 2 inches (5 cm) across.

If the patella is shattered beyond repair, it can be removed. The operation is termed a patellectomy.

Patella is a Latin word that referred to a "small pan, dish or plate." As a saucer, the patella is quite paltry and cannot have held much.

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Reviewed on 12/12/2018

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