Kneecap (patella) fracture

The kneecap is a small bone at the front of the knee at the point where the thigh bone and shin bone meet. It protects the knee joint and connects muscles from the shin bone to the thigh. Types of kneecap fracture include:

  • Stable fracture: the bone remains in line and can heal easily
  • Displaced fracture: the bone is broken and separated, and the joint surface (cartilage) may also be damaged
  • Comminuted fracture: the bone breaks into more than three pieces. It can be stable or displaced
  • Open fracture: the bone breaks through the skin and surrounding tissue is damaged; these fractures are the most serious because infection can develop both in the wound and the bone

What are the causes of kneecap fracture?

The kneecap can be fractured (broken) in a number of ways, for example if you fall onto your knee; it is struck while playing sports such as football or rugby; or during a car accident.

What are the symptoms of kneecap fracture?

Symptoms include:

  • Bruising
  • Not being able to straighten your knee or raise it while it’s straight
  • Being unable to walk

How is a kneecap fracture diagnosed?

Adrian will discuss your symptoms with you and examine your knee to check for tenderness, stiffness, swelling and check your range of movement. If the fracture is displaced, it’s often possible to feel the fractured bone through the skin. In most cases, he will arrange for you to have an X-ray to confirm the diagnosis.

How is a kneecap fracture treated?

  • Non-surgical treatment: if the fracture is stable, it may heal by itself. You will need to wear a cast to keep the leg straight and hold the bones in place so they can mend naturally
  • Surgery: if your kneecap fracture is not stable, you may need surgery to remove loose bone fragments and/or fix the fracture into place. You may also need to have knee realignment (osteotomy) surgery


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