22 February 2019
For patients who recover from kneecap dislocation, quadriceps strengthening exercise is recommended. Photo: Xinhua
For patients who recover from kneecap dislocation, quadriceps strengthening exercise is recommended. Photo: Xinhua

Kneecap dislocation: Treatment and care

Miss Lau, who is in her twenties, has been diagnosed with kneecap deformity and dislocation on both of her knees.

The diagnosis left the young woman confused as she didn’t expect such problem so early in life.

Kneecap dislocation noted in young adults is often due to sports injuries, while most other patients — generally of the age of 50 and above — develop a problem after long years of wear-and-tear of the patella, the medical term for the kneecap.

Activities like basketball, badminton or dancing involve lots of wide-range motion of the knees that could easily overload with pressure, speeding up the process of wearing of the patella.

Lau is a dancer and her injuries were sustained by repeated twisting and turning. Frequent landing after jumping also added much pressure to the strained knees.

Not only were her knees dislocated, connective tissues in the area were also damaged. A series of follow-up sessions with medical professionals can be expected in the long run in view of her condition.

Although it sounds like an isolated case, there has indeed been a rise in the number of young people suffering from knee problems.

When a mild patellar dislocation occurs, associated ligaments and cartilage would be injured, resulting in swelling and stiffness.

If the impact comes too strongly, the patella would be completely out of place, causing total dislocation in the joint. Patients with a deformed knee would immediately become unable to walk and need to be transported to hospital for emergency treatments, which would involve the patient being put under anesthesia and the joint restored in the correct position by the surgeon.

Follow-up sessions for treatments such as physiotherapy, and continuous monitoring for a meniscus tear, can be expected. Patients also need to wear a knee brace for two or three weeks to avoid further injuries or dislocation.

Women are more vulnerable to kneecap dislocation due to a wider shape of the female pelvis. They are also more likely to walk with an out-toeing gait, which would create a lateral pull on the patella.

Thirty or forty percent of patients who recover from kneecap dislocation have a chance of suffering from it again.

To prevent the problem, quadriceps strengthening exercise is recommended.

For people at risk, like those who walk with an out-toeing gait or those whose kneecap-support tissues are weak or loose, they should seek professional advice from an orthopaedic specialist.

For treating a kneecap that keeps dislocating, prescriptions can include physiotherapy, hyaluronic acid injection to reduce cartilage wear, or surgical correction.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Oct. 31

Translation by Darlie Yiu

[Chinese version 中文版]

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FHKAM (Orthopaedic Surgery)

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