(knee jerk) reflex contraction of the quadriceps (thigh) muscle so that the leg kicks, elicited in a patient sitting with one knee crossed over the other by sharply tapping the tendon of the muscle below the kneecap. The reflex is mediated through nerves emanating from the third and fourth lumbar spinal levels (see spinal nerves). This is a test of the connection between the sensory nerves attached to stretch receptors in the muscle, the spinal cord, and the motor neurons running from the cord to the thigh muscle, all of which are involved in the reflex. The patellar reflex is reduced or absent when there is disease or damage of the spinal cord at or below the level of the reflex and exaggerated in disorders above the level of the reflex.
Subjects: Medicine and Health.