Knee Fracture

What is a knee fracture?

A knee fracture is a break in 1 or more of the 4 bones that make up the knee: the thighbone (femur), shinbone (tibia), fibula, and kneecap (patella).

What is the cause?

Knee fractures can occur in many ways: falls, car accidents, contact sports and exercise injuries, getting hit, and other injuries.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of a broken knee include:

  • pain
  • tenderness
  • swelling
  • limited range of motion
  • pain made worse by movement
  • grating of bone ends
  • muscle spasm during slight movement
  • misshapen leg
  • inability to walk

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your injury and symptoms. Because many different knee problems can cause knee pain, your provider will examine you thoroughly to determine the cause of your pain. You will have X-rays.

How it is treated?

The treatment depends on what bone is broken and what kind of fracture you have. If the bone pieces line up well, you may not need surgery and your knee may be set in a splint or cast.

If the fracture involves the patella (kneecap), you may have surgery to:

  • remove all small fragments
  • wire the kneecap fragments together, if possible
  • remove a shattered patella

If the fracture does not involve the kneecap, but rather the lower end of the thighbone or the upper end of the big lower leg bone, your healthcare provider will move the broken bone into the correct place. This is done most easily right after the injury, so prompt medical attention is necessary. You may need surgery to repair the broken leg bone. Metal pins, screws, or plates may be used to hold pieces of bone together. This surgery is called internal fixation.

After surgery you may have a cast put around the injured area to immobilize it and prevent any movement of the joint above and below the fracture site.

You will learn how to care for your cast:

  • how to elevate it on pillows
  • how to bathe with a cast
  • how to use crutches or a cane
  • how to care for the skin around the cast edges.

Immobilization of a body part can cause joints to stiffen. Your muscles may get weak. You will learn range-of-motion exercises to keep the uninjured parts healthy. You will also learn isometric exercises to strengthen your injured leg. Isometric exercises avoid movement: When you do these exercises, you create tension by contracting the muscle, holding the tension, and then releasing it without moving the joint.

You may need to meet with a physical therapist to help you get back full range of motion of your injured knee.

How long will the effects last?

Healing times depend on which bone was broken, the type of fracture, the treatment, and how well you heal.

How can I take care of myself?

To help take care of yourself, follow the full course of treatment your healthcare provider prescribes. Also, follow these guidelines:

  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Keep the leg raised when possible to reduce swelling.

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these symptoms appear:

  • unusual warmth, redness, or swelling above or below the fracture
  • discoloration: your toenails or feet become and stay blue or grey even though you are keeping your leg elevated
  • a loss of feeling in the skin below the fracture

How can I prevent a knee fracture?

Injuries cannot always be prevented, but you may be able to help prevent a knee fracture by following these guidelines:

  • Wear proper, correctly fitting shoes when you exercise.
  • Gently stretch and warm up before and after physical activity like aerobics, running, and sports.
  • Work and play safely.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Published by RelayHealth.
© 2012 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.