Patellar Dislocation

A dislocated kneecap (patella) happens when the patella slides to the outside of the knee. Sometimes, it slides back into place on its own. Sometimes, manipulation is needed to move the patella back into place. This injury tears the muscle and tendon connections to the patella along the inside of the knee. Other knee problems can happen with patellar dislocation. These include:

  • Poor healing of the tissues, with a loose joint.

  • Repeated dislocations.

  • Damage to the joint cartilage.

  • Broken (fractured) bone and cartilage.

Patellar dislocations can be reduced by straightening the knee and pushing gently on the patella. You can move it back into normal position. A splint is normally applied after the patella is put back in place. Keep the splint on until you see your caregiver in 1 to 2 weeks. Pack your knee in ice for 20 to 30 minutes every few hours or for longer periods if you are in a cast.

If this is the first time this has happened, do not use your knee too soon. It takes 4 to 6 weeks for this injury to heal properly. Surgery to tighten up the knee may be needed if the patella keeps dislocating. See your caregiver for proper follow-up and help with rehabilitation.