Commonly called a broken knee cap, patella fracture can either be a single crack across the kneecap, or else where the kneecap is broken into several pieces - a 'stellate' fracture.
A patella fracture is usually the result of a direct blow to the knee, for example in a car crash, or from an opponent during sport. Occasionally it can even occur when an athlete contracts the quadriceps muscles forcefully enough to crack the knee cap.
- Immediate and intense knee pain
- Inability to bend or straighten the knee
- It may be possible to feel a gap in the knee cap
This is an injury that requires treatment in the emergency department, where an x-ray will be required to confirm the diagnosis.
Treatment will depend upon the extent of the injury and the appearance of the fracture fragments. If the crack is small, and the knee cap retains its original position, immobilisation in a plaster cast for around 6 weeks is the normal protocol.
Where the knee cap has become more severely disrupted, the consultant will need to operate, restoring the knee cap to its original position using tensioned wire. If damage is so great that normal alignment is impossible, it may be necessary to remove the knee cap completely.
Following surgery, the knee will be placed in plaster for at least 6 weeks.