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Patella (Kneecap) Fracture Surgery


What is a patella fracture?

The patella (kneecap) is the triangular bone at the front of the knee. Though the kneecap is not needed for walking or bending your leg, it makes your muscles more efficient and absorbs much of the stress between the upper and lower portions of the leg. Because the patella acts as a shield for your knee joint, it is vulnerable to fracture if you fall directly onto your knee or hit it against the dashboard in a vehicle collision. The kneecap can fracture in many ways: partially or completely, into a few or into many pieces. Sometimes when the kneecap is fractured, the ligaments or tendons attached to it can be sprained or torn.


How do I know if I need surgery? 

Two of the most important factors to consider when determining the course of treatment: fracture displacement and the patient’s ability to perform a straight leg raise (extend the knee). Patients with minimally or non-displaced fractures who can also extend their leg can usually be treated conservatively with a knee immobilizer and rehabilitation. Patients with significant displacement and the inability to do a straight leg raise will need to be treated surgically.


What happens during surgery for a broken kneecap? 

Open Reduction and Internal Fixation (ORIF) surgery has two components. First, an incision is made over the kneecap in order to visualize the fracture pieces and assess how well they can be put back together. In the second part of the procedure, Dr. Potts reassembles the pieces of the patella and fixes them into place using metal wires and/or screws. These parts, made of stainless steel, stay in the body and help keep the bones in place while they heal and grow back together.