Patellar Fracture (Broken Knee Cap)
A small roughly triangular shaped bone, the patella sits at the conjunction of the distal femur and proximal tibia. Located in the anterior aspect of the knee joint, the patella protects the knee and connects muscles from the thigh down to the tibia. Underneath the patella, articular cartilage covers the surface to ease movement and allow for the joint to glide efficiently. When age or injury causes damage to the cartilage, knee arthritis can eventually occur. Due to its superficial location and its nature to protect the knee joint, the patella often finds itself victim to fractures.
Symptoms of patellar fractures
All patients process pain differently. The most common symptoms associated with patellar fractures include:
- Knee pain
- Knee swelling
- Cannot bear weight on affected leg
- Cannot straighten leg
Evaluating and treating Patellar Fractures
The patella bone can fracture in multiple ways. Four main types of fractures exist; Comminuted Fractures, Open Fractures, Displaced Fractures, and Stable Fractures.
To evaluate and determine which type of patellar fracture a patient has, a knee specialist conducts a physical examination followed with diagnostic testing. Typically doctors only need an Xray of the knee to determine if a patient has a patellar fracture.
If the patient has a stable fracture, the AOA physician may not need to perform surgery. In this instance, the doctor places the knee in a cast to keep the knee straight and allow the patella to heal in the appropriate position. A site for muscle attachment, the patella may have difficulty healing in a correct position due to the forces presented upon it from attaching muscles.
If the doctor does not think the patella can heal properly in a cast, they recommend surgical intervention. The exact surgical procedure depends on the type of fracture and number of fragments present. The surgeon either repairs the fractured patella with screws, wires, a tension band, or a combination of multiple devices. If the fractured patella contains fragments too small to repair, the surgeon removes the fragments and try to salvage what they can. Surgeons only remove the patella if no other options exist.
Following a patellar fracture repair
Following a surgery to repair a fractured patella, the surgeon prescribes the patient a physical therapy protocol to strengthen the surrounding muscles and regain movement of the knee. The treating knee surgeon may also recommend pain management.
EXPERIENCING knee PAIN? CALL 817-375-5200 TO SCHEDULE AN APPOINTMENT WITH AN AOA ORTHOPEDIC SPECIALIST TODAY!