The infrapatellar fat pad and the synovial membrane: an anatomo-functional unit, 2018

Topics: infrapatellar fat pad; knee plicae; osteoarthritis; synovial membrane.

Authors: Veronica Macchi, Elena Stocco, Carla Stecco, Elisa Belluzzi, Marta Favero, Andrea Porzionato, Raffaele De Caro


The infrapatellar pad, a fibro-adipose tissue with peculiar microscopic and mechanical features, is gaining wide attention in the field of rheumatological research. The purpose of this descriptive review is to summarize the most recent published evidence on the anatomic, physiologic and biomechanical inter-relationship between the infrapatellar fat pad and the knee synovial membrane. As an extrasynovial tissue, the infrapatellar fat pad does not directly interact with the articular cartilage; based on its location in close contact with the synovial membrane, and due to the metabolic properties of adipose tissue, it may influence the behavior of the synovial membrane. In fact, considering evidence of macroscopic and microscopic anatomy, the infrapatellar fat pad is the site of insertion of the infrapatellar and medial synovial plicae. Also biochemically, there is much evidence highlighting the interaction among these two structures; in the case of inflammation, the mutual interplay is ascribable to the release of pro-inflammatory mediators stimulating the proliferation of inflammatory cells and promoting tissue modifications in both. All these assumptions could support the emerging idea that the infrapatellar fat pad and the synovial membrane may be considered a morpho-functional unit.

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