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by Scholten A
Broken Kneecap; Fracture, Patella; Kneecap Fracture; Patellar Fracture

Definition

A patella fracture is a break in the kneecap. The kneecap is a bone on the front of the knee.

Causes

A patella fracture may be caused by:

  • A blow to the knee
  • A fall onto the knee
  • Forced stress on the muscle that extends the knee

Risk Factors

In children, things that raise the risk of patella fractures are:

  • Playing contact sports, such as football and soccer
  • Activities that increase the risk of falls, such as skateboarding
  • Rough play
  • Conditions or medicines that weaken bones

Symptoms

Symptoms of a patella fracture are:

  • Knee pain and swelling
  • Problems moving the knee and walking

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done, paying close attention to the knee.

Images will be taken of the knee to look for a fracture. This can be done with:

  • X-ray
  • CT scan
  • Ultrasound

Treatment

Treatment will depend on how severe the injury is. It can take a month or more to heal. Medicine will be needed to ease swelling and pain. Other options are:

Without Surgery

A mild fracture may be treated with a cast. The cast will keep the knee from moving as it heals. A brace, cane, or crutches may be needed after the cast comes off. The doctor or physical therapist will advise exercises to promote strength and movement.

A mild fracture may be treated with a cast. The cast will keep the knee from moving as it heals. A brace, cane, or crutches may be needed after the cast comes off. The doctor or physical therapist will advise exercises to promote strength and movement.

Surgery

Some children may need surgery if the patella is in pieces. Surgery may use pins and screws to put the pieces back together.

After surgery, exercises will promote strength and movement.

Some children may need surgery if the patella is in pieces. Surgery may use pins and screws to put the pieces back together.

After surgery, exercises will promote strength and movement.

Prevention

Most fractures are due to accidents. Healthy bones and muscles may help prevent injury. This may be done through diet and exercise.

RESOURCES

Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons  https://orthoinfo.org  

Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America  https://posna.org  

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Canadian Orthopaedic Association  https://coa-aco.org 

Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation  https://whenithurtstomove.org  

References

Jarraya M, Diaz LE, et al. Imaging of patellar fractures. Insights Imaging. 2017;8(1):49-57.

Juvenile osteoporosis. Stanford Children’s Health website. Available at: https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=juvenile-osteoporosis-90-P01965. Accessed August 12, 2021.

Kids and their bones: a guide for parents. National Institutes of Health website. Available at: https://www.bones.nih.gov/health-info/bone/bone-health/juvenile#2. Accessed August 12, 2021.

Patella fracture—emergency management. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/management/patella-fracture-emergency-management. Accessed August 12, 2021.

Patellar fractures. Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America website. Available at: https://posna.org/Physician-Education/Study-Guide/Patella-Fractures. Accessed August 12, 2021.

Patellar (kneecap) fractures. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedics website. Available at: https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/patellar-kneecap-fractures. Accessed August 12, 2021.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Nicole Meregian, PA
  • Review Date: 09/2021
  • Update Date: 09/29/2021