Dislocated Knee | Diagnosis and Treatment

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How is a dislocated knee diagnosed?

A dislocated knee should be evaluated by a pediatric orthopedic surgeon. During the examination, the physician will obtain a complete medical history of your child. If the dislocated patella resulted from an injury, the physician may ask about how the injury occurred. The physician also may ask your child to walk around or to straighten and bend the knee, in addition to checking the area around the kneecap and taking measurements to determine if the bones are out of alignment or if the thigh muscles are weak.

X-rays may be recommended to see how the kneecap fits in its groove. Your doctor will also want to eliminate other possible reasons for the pain, such as a tear in the cartilage or ligaments of the knee. X-ray or magnetic resonance imaging procedures may be used to view the knee.

How is a dislocated knee treated?

Specific treatment for a knee dislocation will be determined by your child's physician based on:

  • your child's age, overall health and medical history
  • the extent of the injury
  • the type of injury
  • your child's tolerance for specific medications, procedures or therapies
  • expectations for the course of the condition
  • your opinion or preference

A dislocated patella may go back to its proper place on its own, but if it doesn't, your child's physician will need to gently push the kneecap back into its groove. Your child will receive sedation to remain comfortable and help the muscles around the dislocated joint relax, so the joint can be put back into place more easily.

A dislocation can damage the underside of the kneecap and the end of the thighbone, which can lead to additional pain and arthritis. Arthroscopic surgery can correct this condition. If the kneecap is only partially dislocated, the doctor may recommend non-operative treatments.

Exercises will help strengthen the muscles in your thighs, so that the kneecap stays aligned. And, a knee brace will immobilize the dislocated area to promote alignment and healing.

A chronic condition, in which the knee continues to be unstable, can often be corrected by surgery. For example, surgery can be used to realign and tighten tendons to keep the kneecap on track or to release tissues that pull the kneecap off track.

With proper treatment, your child should be able to return to normal activities within one to three months. It is important that your child adhere to the activity restrictions and stretching and strengthening rehabilitation programs to prevent re-injury.

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