What Can Be Done For A Fractured Kneecap?

If you have had a blow to your kneecap during a fall, sports incident or car accident, it may be fractured and need treatment. This article will discuss the symptoms of a kneecap fracture, its treatment, and the rehabilitation you will need following treatment.

Symptoms of a Patellar Fracture

The triangular bone in front of your knee is called the patella. This bone acts a stress absorber for your leg bones and muscles, plus it is a point of attachment for your leg muscles. It can fracture in a variety of ways, or even splinter into many pieces. When it is cracked or fractured in an impact, this will also mean there will likely be damage to your ligaments and tendons.

There is no mistaking a severe fracture of the patella, because it will have a deformed appearance. Other symptoms you may experience, whether minor or severe, include:

  • Tenderness, pain, and swelling of the kneecap and surrounding regions,
  • Bruising,
  • Difficulty moving the knee up or down or extending your leg,
  • Intense pain bending your leg at the knee,
  • Inability to walk, or
  • Having trouble going down stairs.

Treatment and Surgery

You will need to see an orthopedic specialist who will have x-rays done of your damaged patella, and possibly x-rays done of your other kneecap for a reference. If the damage is not severe, you may only require a cast or a splint to keep your kneecap together while the bone and the other tissues heal. This will mean using crutches to keep weight off of your leg until your knee is strong enough to bear your weight.

Your kneecap may require surgery if the bone fragments are displaced or if the damage is significant. In a procedure called open reduction-internal fixation (ORIF) surgery, your surgeon will reassemble the broken bones with wire, screws, or pins and also remove any bone fragments that are too small to be useful. After the surgery, your leg will be immobilized until has fully healed.

If your patella is damaged beyond repair, the surgeon will remove it in a procedure called a full or partial patellectomy. The tendons and muscle tissues will be preserved however, so you will be able to bend or extend your knee after it heals, but these abilities may be mildly impaired.

Rehabilitation and Aftercare

After your knee injury has healed, the emphasis will be on strengthening and conditioning your leg muscles through physical therapy. You will also work on extending your range of motion and learning ways to reduce stress on your knees while engaging in daily activities.

Later, you may be advised to do non-weight bearing and low impact types of exercise like bike riding, water aerobics, or swimming on a regular basis. You may also be able to do a modified yoga routine (be sure to avoid poses that require deep bending of the knee) or a modified weightlifting program. Your physician may also recommend that you either use knee pads when engaging in contact sports or to avoid them all together. 

For more information, contact Tedder Sports Medicine & Orthopaedic Center or a similar location.