Kneecap (Patellar) Dislocation
The kneecap is also known as the patella, a bone at the front of the knee. Patellar dislocation occurs when the kneecap is dislodged from the groove at the bottom of the femur (the thigh bone), and is most common among younger people. It can be often effectively treated with physiotherapy, however some patients may benefit from a short surgical procedure to repair the problem.
What is Patellar Dislocation?
Known as the kneecap, the patella is the small bone covering the front of the knee joint. A dislocated kneecap occurs when the patella is dislodged or slips out of place a groove at the bottom of the femur (thigh bone). It most often occurs in active people younger than thirty years, but can affect people of all ages.
A dislocated patella causes severe pain, swelling, and severely restricted movement of the knee. Patients sometimes describe seeing the kneecap sticking out from the side of the knee. Some patients completely recover and never experience it again. In other patients, the patella will chronically or recurrently dislocate until it is surgically repaired.
Treatment and Recovery following patellar dislocation
As soon a patellar dislocation occurs for the first time, the affected knee should be rested, elevated, stabilized with a brace, and iced for 10-15 minutes each hour until the swelling subsides.
Many patellar dislocations can be effectively treated with physiotherapy and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications. A typical rehabilitation program involves 5-6 weeks of strengthening exercises designed to rebuild the muscles surrounding the patella and restore the range of motion. Most patients also wear a brace to ensure the knee’s stability and prevent further dislocations.
Kneecap Dislocation – Surgery Options
Severe and/or recurrent patellar dislocations may require surgery. The orthopaedic surgeon will undertake a short arthroscopic procedure to remove any dislodged pieces of bone and to smooth down any damaged cartilage.
Recurrent patella dislocations may also need reconstructive surgery to re-align or repair the structures causing the dislocations.
A common surgical approach involves reconstruction of the medial patellofemoral ligament with a graft harvested from the hamstring tendons or a cadaver donor. This procedure can also be performed arthroscopically.
In the most serious cases, the orthopaedic surgeon may need to modify the structure of the surrounding bones and/or ligaments in order to stabilise the patella and prevent future dislocations.
How long does it take for a Dislocated Patella to heal?
The timeline for recovery from a patellar dislocation can vary widely. Most recover completely in six to eight weeks, but more severe cases may take 3-4 months to heal properly.