Patellar Dislocation Specialist

Maguire & Early Orthopedics

Pediatric Orthopedic Surgeons located in Santa Barbara, CA & Pismo Beach, CA

Patellar dislocation occurs when the kneecap separates from the joint, which can be both painful and disabling. If you or your child suffers patellar dislocation, Maguire & Early Orthopedics can help. Experienced pediatric orthopedic specialists Michael Maguire, MD, and Sean Early, MD, have offices in Santa Barbara and Pismo Beach, California, where they perform minimally invasive ligament reconstruction surgery to restore knee stability in those suffering from patellar dislocation. To benefit from expert care and treatment, call Maguire & Early Orthopedics or book an appointment online today.

Patellar Dislocation Q & A

What is a patellar dislocation?

The patella (kneecap) sits in the trochlear groove at the bottom of the femur (thigh bone). When you bend and straighten your knee, the patella moves up and down in the groove. If the patella goes too far to the side, it can come out of the groove, causing patellar dislocation.

Patellar dislocations often result from direct blows to the knee or falling onto the joint. This is particularly likely in high-impact sports, like football. Dislocation may also happen when you plant your foot and rotate or twist your body.

Patellar dislocation can occur if you or your child has an abnormality in the knee, such as an uneven or shallow trochlear groove or loose ligaments that mean the joints are excessively flexible. Children with Down syndrome or cerebral palsy may suffer frequent patellar dislocations because of muscle weakness and imbalance.

What are the symptoms of a patellar dislocation?

The severity of the symptoms you or your child experiences with patellar dislocation varies according to how far out of place the patella is and the extent of any damage to the surrounding tissues. Typical symptoms include:

  • Knee pain
  • Swelling
  • Feeling the kneecap shifting
  • The knee buckling or giving way
  • Hearing a popping sound in the knee
  • A knee that looks abnormal or misshapen

Following a physical exam, your provider at Maguire & Early Orthopedics is likely to order X-rays, which create clear images of the bones in the knee. If necessary, they might also request an MRI scan to examine the ligaments and other soft tissues.

What treatment does a patellar dislocation require?

If you or your child dislocates their patella, you should go to the hospital emergency room in the first instance. Your provider can administer pain medication and then gently move the kneecap back into its groove.

While the kneecap heals, you or your child may need to wear a brace for 3-4 weeks to stabilize the joint. Crutches might also be necessary for a week or two to keep weight off the knee. As the knee begins to heal, physical therapy helps restore normal function, ensuring the ability to return to physical activity after 3-6 weeks.

Injuries like these can cause instability in the knee that makes you or your child more likely to suffer further dislocations in the future. If the joint remains unstable, surgery may be necessary. Ligament reconstruction using minimally invasive arthroscopic techniques can help to keep the patella in its groove.

To restore knee stability and help you or your child resume an active life, call Maguire & Early Orthopedics today or book an appointment online.