The anatomy of the posterior aspect of the knee: An anatomic study

Robert F. LaPrade, Patrick M. Morgan, Fred A. Wentorf, Steinar Johansen, Lars Engebretsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

105 Scopus citations


Background: The orthopaedic literature contains relatively little quantitative information regarding the anatomy of the posterior aspect of the knee. The purpose of the present study was to provide a detailed description of, and to propose a standard nomenclature for, the anatomy of the posterior aspect of the knee. Methods: Detailed dissection of twenty nonpaired, fresh-frozen knees was performed. Posterior knee structures were measured according to length, width, and/or distance to reproducible osseous landmarks. Results: The semimembranosus tendon had eight attachments distal to the main common tendon. The main components were a lateral expansion to the oblique popliteal ligament; a direct arm, which attached to the tibia; and an anterior arm. The oblique popliteal ligament, the largest posterior knee structure, formed a broad fascial sheath over the posterior aspect of the knee and measured 48.0 mm in length and 9.5 mm wide at its medial origin and 16.4 mm wide at its lateral attachment. It had two lateral attachments, one to the meniscofemoral portion of the posterolateral joint capsule and one to the tibia, along the lateral border of the posterior cruciate ligament facet. The semimembranosus also had a distal tibial expansion, which formed a posterior fascial layer over the popliteus muscle. A thickening of the posterior joint capsule, the proximal popliteus capsular expansion, which in this study averaged 40.5 mm in length, connected the posteromedial knee capsule at its attachment at the intercondylar notch to the medial border of the popliteus musculotendinous junction. The plantaris muscle, popliteofibular ligament, fabellofibular ligament, and semimembranosus bursa were present in all specimens. Conclusions: The anatomy of the posterior aspect of the knee is quite complex. This study provides information that can lead to further biomechanical, radiographic imaging, and clinical studies of the importance of these posterior knee structures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)758-764
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Bone and Joint Surgery - American Volume
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2007

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
In support of their research for or preparation of this work, one or more of the authors received, in any one year, outside funding or grants of less than $10,000 from the Sports Medicine Research Fund of the Minnesota Medical Foundation, University of Minnesota, and the Vice President for Research, University of Minnesota. Neither they nor a member of their immediate families received payments or other benefits or a commitment or agreement to provide such benefits from a commercial entity. No commercial entity paid or directed, or agreed to pay or direct, any benefits to any research fund, foundation, division, center, clinical practice, or other charitable or nonprofit organization with which the authors, or a member of their immediate families, are affiliated or associated.


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