Kneecap Dislocation: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

by Craig W. Goodhart, MD 20. November 2014 09:42

A knee dislocation is an orthopedic condition that involves dislocation of the bones of the knee due to a sudden impact. The bones of the knee are joined with a strong band of ligaments that stabilize the knee in a position. When these ligaments tear, they fail to hold the knee in position and cause dislocation. Often injuries lead to disruption of kneecap and its ligaments, and the condition needs to be treated immediately to avoid adverse consequences.


  • High speed injuries
  • Sports
  • Major traumas
  • Falling from height
  • Motor accidents
  • Sudden change in the direction
  • Twisting of knee
  • Direct blow to knee


  • Pain
  • Acute swelling
  • Inflammation
  • Lack of sensation below the knee
  • Accumulation of fluid in the knee
  • Inability to move
  • Pain while movement
  • Deformity in leg
  • Discoloration at the site of ligament injury
  • Sense of instability

The patient should keep the knee outstretched and still while he gets medical attention. With a kneecap dislocation one should immediately consult an orthopedic doctor.


The orthopedic doctor examines the kneecap and asks the patients questions to find out the cause of the injury or dislocation of the kneecap. He also recommends X-ray, MRI, or other imaging tests to find out the exact condition of the kneecap. X-ray shows the dislocation clearly and helps the physician decide how the kneecap can be manipulated to place it in the right position.


The first treatment that an orthopedic physician can offer is moving the lower leg back into position so that the kneecap can be manipulated and placed in its position. Relocation is an important step that repairs the damage to the nerves. To reduce pain and swelling, the physician prescribes certain medications that include painkillers and anti-inflammatory medicines. To treat the kneecap dislocation non-operatively, the physician often places the knee in splints, casts or braces. This immobilizes the knee and accelerates healing as the splints avoid bending of the knee and promote healing of tissues.

If the kneecap cannot be relocated non-surgically, the patient may require surgical treatment in which the kneecap is re-constructed to regain its functionality and movement. The patient is also advised to do certain stretching and strengthening exercises that help the patient recover quickly and regain the muscle strength. While rehabilitating, the patient is suggested not to put weight on the leg and take certain precautions.

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