Knee Fractures & Injuries

What are Knee Fractures?

A patella or a kneecap is a small bone that connects the bones of your thigh and your leg. The function of a patella is to protect the joint in the knee, by acting like a shield. The bones of the thigh, patella and legs are covered with articular cartilage, a slippery fluid that enables smooth movement of bones when you walk. Because the kneecap is a shield, it can get injured in falling or tripping. Fractures in the knee vary not only in the area damaged, but also in the extent of damage. The kneecap could slightly crack or get broken into pieces. It could happen at the top or center or lower parts of the patella. It could also exist in many parts of the kneecap. Other variations could be stable fracture, displaced fracture, open fracture and comminuted fracture. In stable fracture non-displaced fracture, the broken pieces would be aligned and they also stay in place during the process of healing. In a displaced fracture, the broken pieces are not aligned but are separated. Often, this requires surgical correction.

An open fracture is a fracture when the damage is not only to the bone but also to the neighboring muscles, ligaments and tendons, the skin may open to make the bone visible. This happens during excessive damage and is a complicated case. A comminuted fracture is a fracture when the bone gets shattered into more than three pieces, it is called comminuted fracture.


The symptoms of a knee fracture include:

  • Swelling of the knee
  • Excessive pain in the knee
  • Inability to walk
  • Inability to straighten the knee
  • Bruises in the injured area


Generally, patellar fractures are caused by a direct blow to the kneecap, due to a fall or a vehicular accident. Rarely, the kneecap can also get fractured by violent contraction of muscles in the thigh.


The risk factors of knee fractures include direct impact to the knees. This happens when you fall while walking or playing sports or during motor vehicle accidents.


To prevent knee fractures, you must be:

  • Careful when you walk or play on slippery surfaces
  • Be extra careful if you are old and have other disorders of the bones like osteoporosis
  • Exercise mildly to improve your strength and body balance

How is it diagnosed?

Your doctor at Medanta might use the following techniques to diagnose knew fractures and injuries:


How is it treated?

Treatment to knee fracture would depend on the severity of the damages. At Medanta, one of these methods may be employed to treat you:


  • Nonsurgical treatment

    If the injury is not severe, the broken bones might not be displaced much. In such cases, splints or casts may be sufficient to keep your knee straight. While the broken ends heal, the cast will hold them in a correct position. This process generally takes around six to eight weeks of time, during which you would be unable to shift weight onto the injured area. You may be advised to use crutches while walking.


  • Surgical treatment

    If the patella is severely damaged and displaced, your doctor might recommend surgical procedures to heal the damage. If the broken pieces are too far apart, the fracture may take longer to heal or not heal at all. The muscles of the thigh at the top of the patella are strong and they may pull the broken pieces out of place, during the healing process.

    Factors to be considered for the surgery are –

    • Timings: For open fractures, surgery is an immediate requirement. If the fracture is not open but there are bruises on the skin, your doctor might decide on waiting until the bruises heal.
    • Procedure: Your doctor will discuss with you beforehand, regarding the type of procedure being performed.
    • Transverse fracture: For this fracture, a band in the shape of number 8 could be used to hold the two broken pieces together. It is generally recommended for fractures near the center of the patella. If the fracture is near the ends, the broken pieces on either end may be too small for the band to hold together. Another alternative is to use small metal screws, wires and pins to secure the broken pieces. These additional pieces must be removed after a year to two.

  • Comminuted fracture

    If your patella is shattered into several small pieces, your surgeon will remove the small pieces and attach the loose tendon to the major chunk of patellar bone that remains. Then, some screws and wires may be used to fix the bone. Complete removal of the kneecap is the last resort of the process, when all else fails or are improbable.

When do I contact the doctor?

If you have had a fall and your knees are swollen and feel extremely painful, seek immediate medical attention.

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