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:
Factors that may increase your risk of a patella fracture include:
Patella fracture may cause:
Your doctor will ask 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:
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include the following:
After the tests, your doctor will determine whether you need surgery. If the patella is not badly injured, your doctor will place the knee in a cast. This cast may need to be worn for 6 weeks. After that, you will wear a knee brace and do physical therapy. You may need to use a cane or crutches.
Your doctor may recommend medication to reduce swelling and pain.
If the patella is in pieces, then you will need surgery. There are two kinds of surgery that are commonly used to treat this injury:
After surgery, you will need to do physical therapy. This can involve range-of-motion exercises and stretching. You will slowly build strength in the injured leg. 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:
American Physical Therapy Association
Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
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 March 2010. Accessed August 25, 2014.
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 25, 2014.
Tay G, Warrier S, et al. Indirect patella fractures following ACL reconstruction. Acta Orthopaedica. 2006;77:494-500.
Last reviewed September 2016 by Michael Woods, MD Last Updated: 9/30/2013