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Patella Fracture: Symptoms & Treatment

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
What happens when you fracture your patella? This lesson tells you about some of the common signs and symptoms one can expect and the general treatment options that are available.

What is a Patellar Fracture?

Did you recently fall and hit your knee? Were you in a head-on car crash? Did you forget to repay a debt to a mobster? A fractured patella might result from any of these scenarios. 'Patella' is a word for your kneecap, and something that is fractured is broken. So a fractured patella is a broken kneecap and a patellar fracture is a break in the kneecap.

Let's find out the signs, symptoms, and treatments of this condition.

Signs & Symptoms

Joe Bambino arrives at the office of Dr. Genovese. He tells the doc he's been in a car crash and that his knee is in pain. The doc doesn't buy it. He knows Bambino hasn't repaid his gambling debts, and suspects the man got his kneecap busted with a bat.

The doctor asks Bambino to take off his pin-striped suit so he can take a look at the knee. He sees that the knee is swelling. It also has dark, purplish spots on it. That's a sign of bruising of the kneecap. Some abrasions are noticeable as well.

Dr. Genovese asks Bambino to straighten his knee and keep it straight when raising his leg, but Bambino can't do either. He also has trouble walking. All good signs of an injury to the kneecap.

Treatment

Bambino says he wants to get back to normal as quickly as possible so that he can run his 'business.' Dr. Genovese says there are several possible ways by which a fractured patella can be treated, all depending on the exact nature of the injury, which will be determined by X-ray. Treatment options include using a cast and surgery.

A cast or splint can be used to help the patella heal. This technique might be used when the broken pieces of bone are still in the correct anatomical position, close to one another. In some cases, the patient will be allowed to bear weight on their affected leg and in other cases they won't, all depending on the exact nature of their fracture.

In more serious fractures, especially when the pieces of bone are displaced or there are many small breaks, then surgery is usually a better treatment option. Surgical techniques vary, but commonly include screws, pins, and wires to fix the fracture(s) and return the kneecap pieces to their original position. Sometimes, pieces of bone will be removed, including the entire patella at times.

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