Every time you bend or flex your knee, your knee cap (patella) slides up and down in its own dedicated groove. However, a blow to the knee, an injury, or overly loose or tight ligaments may cause the kneecap to lose its groove, moving either slightly or completely outside its track.
Although most cases of patellar instability (dislocated knee) occur in kids and teens, a fall, blow to the knee, or car accident can cause a dislocation in people of any age. Unfortunately, once the kneecap has dislocated, painful recurrence is common.
David Lintner, MD, specializes in patellar stabilization at Houston Methodist Orthopedics & Sports Medicine in Baytown and Houston, Texas. If you or your child has experienced one or more knee dislocations, here’s why you should consider stabilization.
Chronic dislocation limits activities
If you or your child have already dislocated a kneecap more than once, you know how patellar instability can degrade your quality of life. A dislocated knee causes symptoms that limit your activities, such as:
- Pain in your knee
- Swollen, stiff knee
- Clicking when you bend or flex the knee
- Buckling knee
- Locking knee
- Difficulty walking
If your child plays sports, chronic patellar stability may keep them on the sidelines long term. Even if they don’t play sports, an unstable kneecap may make them reluctant to join in healthy childhood games that require running or jumping.
Chronic dislocation may lead to arthritis
Perhaps even worse than limitations in day-to-day activities, a chronically dislocated kneecap increases your risk for knee arthritis. The constant grating of the kneecap outside its groove can damage the surrounding tissues, including the cartilage.
Up to 20% of kids who experienced a patellar dislocation before they’d reached their full growth had knee arthritis by the time they were 20 years old. And unfortunately, arthritis can progress to the point where you need a knee replacement. It’s much easier to prevent arthritis in the first place than to try to treat it once it’s occurred.
Treatment prevents recurrence
Adequate rest and physical therapy may be enough to allow the kneecap to heal and realign. If not, Dr. Lintner offers several methods of patellar stabilization, depending on the severity and type of dislocation:
Reconstruct or release ligaments
Patellar dislocation can occur when the ligaments holding the kneecap are either too loose or too tight on one side. Dr. Lintner may opt to repair damaged patellar ligaments with arthroscopic surgery. For overly tight ligaments, he may cut and release them so they stop pulling the kneecap out of joint.
Realign the patella
If the kneecap slips off its track more than once, Dr. Linter may recommend surgery that places the patella in a healthier, more stable position. In some cases, he may need to reshape the patella to keep it sliding smoothly.
Shave or remove damaged bone or cartilage
Shards of bone or cartilage can damage the protective cartilage that keeps the knee moving smoothly and prevents the patella from grinding bone-on-bone. If Dr. Lintner finds evidence of bone or tissue fragments in the knee, he removes them or shaves down the excess.
Whenever possible, Dr. Lintner performs arthroscopic knee surgery that only requires small incisions and miniature instruments. For more advanced cases, he may need to perform open surgery, which needs larger incisions and a longer recovery time.
Don’t risk another knee dislocation or increase your risk for knee arthritis. Contact our office nearest you in Houston, Texas, or Baytown, Texas, to schedule a patellar stabilization consultation today.