What To Do If Your Kneecap Frequently Dislocates

You or your child has a knee that’s troublesome — perhaps you feel pain or your knee locks up or buckles. In either case, you’re left struggling to get around and you want answers. While not terribly common, patellar instability can lead to recurrent dislocations in your knee and the problem requires medical attention.

As a specialist in knees, Dr. Timothy Wilson understands the many conditions that can cause discomfort and limit movement, and patellar instability certainly qualifies.

If you or your child has a kneecap that frequently dislocates, here’s what you should know.

The anatomy of the knee

To better understand patellar instability or a patella dislocation (patella is the medical term for kneecap), it’s important to take a broader look at your knee’s anatomy.

Your knee is the largest joint in your body and it’s where three bones come together:

Your kneecap is what we call a sesamoid bone, which means, unlike other bones, it grows within the tendon that crosses your knee. Your patella serves several functions, including protecting your joint, as well as providing you with the ability to extend your leg.

To keep your kneecap in position, your femur features a trochlear groove, which allows your kneecap to slide up and down as you bend and straighten your leg.

Kneecap dislocation

In general, there are two ways in which your kneecap can become dislocated. First, trauma can push your patella out of the trochlear groove. If you or your child is experiencing frequent dislocations, however, the likely culprit is chronic patellar instability.

With chronic patellar instability, you or your child may have a shallow or crooked trochlear groove, which leaves your kneecap more vulnerable to slipping out of position. Unusually loose ligaments can also lead to patellar instability.

The reason why we mention children here is that chronic patellar instability often reveals itself in children and teens.

The symptoms of patellar instability

To help you identify whether you may be dealing with patellar instability, here’s a list of some of the more common symptoms:

In some cases, you can see the dislocation from the outside as the kneecap isn’t centered properly.

The problem in identifying patellar instability is that there are any number of problems that can also lead to the same symptoms we list above. To determine whether patellar instability is behind the frequent dislocations, it’s important that you come see us for an evaluation.

Treating patellar instability

If we determine that you or your child has patellar instability, we can try conservative treatments, such as rest and physical therapy. If, however, the problem is likely to recur because of structural issues, we will likely recommend surgical intervention to correct the underlying problem. Rest assured, we use minimally invasive laparoscopic techniques wherever possible.

If you or your child is struggling with frequent kneecap dislocations, please contact our office in Lexington, Kentucky, to schedule a comprehensive assessment.

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