A patella fracture occurs when there is a break in the patella, better known as the kneecap. The patella is a large, movable bone at the front of the knee.
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Some common causes of this injury include:
- Sharp blow to the knee
- Excessive stress on the knee
Factors that may increase your risk of a patella fracture include:
Patella fracture may cause:
- Sudden, excruciating pain in the kneecap
- Swelling, bruising, and tenderness
- Inability to extend the knee
- Difficulty walking
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. The doctor will look closely at the knee to see if there are signs of fracture . A straight leg test may be done.
Images can evaluate your knee and surrounding structures. These may include:
Treatment options include the following:
After the tests, the doctor will determined whether surgery is needed. If the patella is not badly injured, the doctor will place the knee in a cast . This cast may need to be worn for 6 weeks. After that, a knee brace and physical therapy will be needed. A cane or crutches may be needed.
Medication will be advised to reduce swelling and pain.
If the patella is in pieces, then surgery will be needed. There are 2 kinds of surgery that are commonly used to treat this injury:
- Open reduction-internal fixation surgery —The doctor uses pins and screws to put the broken pieces back together.
- Patellectomy—Rarely, the doctor removes part of the kneecap or the entire kneecap.
After surgery, physical therapy will be needed. This can involve range-of-motion exercises and stretching . In some cases, another surgery will be needed to remove the pins and screws.
Depending on the injury, recovery can take weeks to several months.
To help reduce your chance of a patella fracture:
- Do not put yourself at risk for trauma to the bone.
- Do weight-bearing exercises to build strong bones.
- Build strong muscles to support the knee, prevent falls, and to stay active and agile.
- Wear proper padding and safety equipment when participating in sports or activities.
American Physical Therapy Association http://www.orthopt.org
Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons http://orthoinfo.org
Canadian Orthopaedic Association http://www.coa-aco.org
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation http://www.canorth.org
Henry P, Panwitz B, et al. Rehabilitation of a post-surgical patella fracture. Physiotherapy. 2000;86:139-142.
Patellar (kneecap) fractures. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedics website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00523. Updated January 2017. Accessed August 30, 2017.
Stress fractures. The American College of Foot & Ankle Orthopedics & Medicine website. Available at: http://www.acfaom.org/information-for-patients/common-conditions/stress-fractures. Accessed August 30, 2017.
Tay G, Warrier S, et al. Indirect patella fractures following ACL reconstruction. Acta Orthopaedica. 2006;77:494-500.
- Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Warren A. Bodine, DO, CAQSM
- Review Date: 09/2018
- Update Date: 09/30/2013