A kneecap injury or fracture is a rare injury. Research has shown that about 1% of broken bones are broken kneecaps. Having a broken kneecap is also known as a patella fracture. The fracture can be caused by trauma like a blow to your kneecap or a fall. This type of fracture can be complicated or straightforward: it depends on the severity of the injury.
Let us look at what knee joint fracture is, what happens when the patella breaks, signs of this injury, and treatment.
What Is A Knee Joint Fracture?
A knee joint fracture is where you have a break in your kneecap. This area on your leg has a small, flat bone that protects the knee joint. It is known as the kneecap and is one of the three bones that makes up the knee joint.
When you are involved in an accident and experience a direct injury, a hard surface collides with your knee; this might lead to a knee joint fracture. This is a severe injury that can limit your movement as you won’t have the ability to straighten or bend your knee.
As discussed, the knee joint fracture can be a simple fracture; however, there are occasions when the patella breaks into many pieces. For example, if you are shot in the knee cap, the bones will break into many pieces in the area the bullet impacts.
What Happens When You Have A Knee Joint Fracture?
The severity of the damage caused by the direct injury to your knee is dependent on the force applied to your knee. This can cause your knee cap to fracture into multiple small pieces, in two pieces, or it can create a hairline crack. This kind of fracture can make it difficult to walk.
Some muscles are attached to your knee joint. They include the patellar tendon and quadriceps. These muscles make it possible for you to extend and flex your knee. Moreover, the patella has cartilage that cushions the knee joint. This cartilage can be impacted during a knee joint fracture, causing post-traumatic arthritis.
Types of Knee Joint Fractures
- Displaced – This type of knee joint fracture is where your broken bone pieces are misaligned. This means they are displaced from their natural position and do not line up as they are supposed to. A displaced knee joint requires surgery for the bones to heal and for the proper functioning of the knee.
- Comminuted – This is where your bone has broken into three or more pieces. The injury can be stable or unstable. There are two situations when a comminuted fracture is called unstable. First is when you have small pieces of bones that require a surgeon to remove them. The other is where the injury had lots of impact on your knee joint, and therefore the bone breaks into tiny pieces that a doctor cannot fix. So they have to be removed altogether.
- Open – As the name indicates, the skin covering your kneecap has been torn apart. This might be due to the knee joint bones breaking and tearing through your skin, or an object has penetrated your knee. This type of fracture needs immediate medical attention. This is because the wound is open and there can be a bacterial infection that makes it hard for the wound to heal faster. Therefore, you should be taken to the emergency room quickly to be given antibiotics to prevent infection and so that doctor can clean the wound. After this, the surgeon will evaluate the extent of the injury and choose the best surgical treatment for your knee.
- Transverse – A transverse injury occurs when your patella breaks into two pieces. Surgeons can fix the injury with surgery. Various surgeries can be used to fix the transverse injury.
- Stable – A stable knee joint fracture is also known as a non-displaced fracture. This is because the broken part of your bones remains intact; they are not dislodged from their original position. The bones are connected or can be separated by a few millimeters. A stable knee joint fracture is not a severe injury and the fracture usually heals without surgery. However, your healthcare provider should evaluate whether the injury requires surgery or not. After this, the doctor will immobilize your knee with a knee immobilizer or a cast.
Signs and Symptoms of Knee Joint Fracture
- Incapacity to walk
- Swelling around the joint can be severe.
- Inability to straighten your leg.
- Knee deformity, especially with significant fractures
- Bone protrusion from the skin of the knee during an open patellar fracture.
How Is A Knee Joint Fracture Diagnosed?
When you visit your healthcare provider, they will ask you about the symptoms you have experienced and what happened during the accident. After this, the doctor will examine your knee. This will include the doctor telling you to extend your leg, and if you are not able to, you might need surgery.
The doctor will check for open wounds and hemarthrosis signs. This is blood from the broken pieces that accumulate on your knee joint. This causes excessive swelling.
In addition to examining the wound, an X-ray or CT scan is used to define the severity of the fracture.
Treatment of Knee Joint Fracture
There are various treatments for a knee joint fracture. This is dependent on the severity of the injury, your health, and your age.
Here is a procedure for knee joint fracture treatment:
- Examination – As discussed, the doctor will examine your knee and determine which treatment will be best for your injury.
- Surgery – Some accidents leave you with separated bone pieces. This necessitates surgery. Orthopedic surgeons utilize pins, screws, wires, or plates to reconnect your bones. The tiny bone pieces that the surgeon cannot reconnect are removed. If the accident led to its detachment, a surgeon could also reattach the tendon to your bone.
- Rest – After the surgery, the doctor will put on a splint, brace, or a cast to keep your knee in position. It is essential to limit movement for the wound to heal completely.
- Rehabilitation – This is an essential step in getting you back to your feet. The injury causes muscle stiffness and weakness, limiting your movement. A doctor may recommend physical therapy to help you stretch and strengthen your leg.
How Long Does It Take to Heal from A Knee Joint Fracture?
Depending on the severity of your fracture, each patient’s healing process varies. What’s more, whether or not you had surgery can affect your healing time.
However, many people will be feeling better in about six weeks and will be back to their feet within three to six months. It is essential to know that you might experience long-term symptoms of stiffness and pain, but this is uncommon.
A knee joint fracture is a painful injury that makes it hard for you to walk and enjoy everyday activities. The good thing is that this kind of injury is not common but accidents do happen. When you experience a knee joint fracture, you should brace yourself for a long road to recovery with lots of rest and therapy. In addition to that, pain relievers will help cope with the pain. Following your healthcare provider’s instructions will ensure you have a smooth journey to recovery.