Fractures of the Knee

Fractures of the Knee

The knee joint is a complex joint made of the lower end of the femur, the upper end of the tibia and the patella. Around the knee joint are muscles and tendons that support the joint and allow for fluid movements. In certain situations where some form of trauma is experienced, fractures of the knee joint can occur. This can either be fracture of the lower end of the femur, the upper end of the tibia or the patella itself. In this article, we shall briefly take a look at fractures of the knee.

Fracture of the Upper End of the Tibia

The tibia is the shin bone. When it suffers any form of injury or trauma, the bone can fracture either in one place in multiple places. A single fracture is called a traverse fracture while multiple fractures are called comminuted fractures.

When a fracture occurs, there may or may not be displacement of the broken segment. When displacement occurs, it can be seen as a bulge under the skin or sometimes may even protrude out of the skin. While the shin bone is particularly strong, there are certain conditions that can make it weaker, such as cancer or osteoporosis. In younger individuals, this fracture is often due to a great deal of trauma sustained by the bone.

Patients complain of pain and swelling around the joint with a rather typical appearance of the joint appearing unusual. Circulation to the foot may be compromised and the foot may become cold. Diagnosis is made through X-ray and treatment involves surgical correction through external fixation. Complications such as compartment syndrome may occur and this requires immediate treatment. In some cases, a cast is sufficient.

Fracture of the Lower End of the Femur

This type of fracture is often seen in older individuals who have weak bones. Fractures can be traverse or comminuted. Once injury occurs, the break in the bone can either be closed (where the overlying skin is intact) or open (where the overlying skin is broken and the bone is protruding outward). The latter tends to affect surrounding structures such as blood vessels and nerves a lot more and requires emergency treatment.

Patients who suffer from a fracture of the lower end of the femur experience pain, swelling and tenderness of the knee joint. The knee appears deformed. Diagnosis is made through X-ray and treatment is often surgical through external fixation.

Fracture of the Patella

The knee cap, or patella, is an uncommon fracture that occurs following direct trauma to the knee cap. The fracture may just be a small crack or can shatter the bone completely. In other words, the fracture can be a stable one or an unstable one respectively.

Common symptoms include difficulty walking and pain, along with an inability to straighten the leg. Diagnosis is made through X-ray and treatment can include placement of casts and splints and sometimes surgical treatments using a wire to hold the bone in place.


Fractures of the knee joint can be of numerous types and are often managed through surgical techniques.

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