Kneecap Dislocation: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Anatomy of the knee

A sudden twisting or a blow can cause the kneecap (patella) to move out of its normal position. This is called a dislocation. It can happen because of a sports injury—such as turning suddenly while running.

Rest and home treatment can help you heal and return to your normal activity, usually within 3 to 6 weeks. But you need to be careful after you heal. Now that your kneecap has been dislocated, it can more easily go out of position again.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Take pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • Rest your knee by not putting weight on your leg until your doctor says it is okay.
  • Follow instructions for using crutches.
  • Your doctor may recommend a brace (immobilizer) or elastic bandage to support your knee while it heals. Wear it as directed.
  • If you have an elastic bandage, make sure it is snug but not so tight that your leg is numb, tingles, or swells below the bandage. You can loosen the bandage if it is too tight.
  • Put ice or a cold pack on your knee for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Try to do this every 1 to 2 hours for the next 3 days (when you are awake) or until the swelling goes down. Put a thin cloth between the ice pack and your skin. Do not get the brace or elastic bandage wet.
  • Prop up your leg on a pillow when you ice it or anytime you sit or lie down for the next 3 days. Try to keep it above the level of your heart. This will help reduce swelling.
  • Go to physiotherapy if your doctor suggests it. Follow your therapist's instruction for home exercises.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have sudden chest pain and shortness of breath, or you cough up blood.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have signs that your kneecap may be dislocated again, including:
    • Severe pain.
    • A misshapen knee that looks like a bone is out of position.
    • Not being able to bend or straighten the knee.
    • Not being able to walk or bear weight on the knee.
  • Your foot is cool or pale or changes colour.
  • You cannot feel or move your toes or ankle.
  • You have signs of a blood clot, such as:
    • Pain in your calf, back of the knee, thigh, or groin.
    • Redness and swelling in your leg.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • Your pain and swelling get worse.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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