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Knee Fractures

What is a Knee Fracture?

A fracture is a condition in which there is a break in the continuity of the bone. Fractures of the knee can include the following:

  • Distal femur fracture: A distal femur fracture is a break in the thighbone that occurs just above your knee joint (part of the femur bone that flares out like the mouth of the funnel).
  • Femoral shaft fracture: A femoral shaft fracture is a break that occurs anywhere along the femoral shaft (long, straight part of the femur).
  • Fractures of proximal tibia: A proximal tibial fracture is a break in the upper part of the shinbone or tibia. Proximal tibial fractures may or may not involve the knee joint.
  • Tibial shaft fractures: A tibial shaft fracture is a break that occurs along the length of the tibia or shinbone (larger bone of the lower leg) between the knee and ankle joints. These fractures can occur while playing sports such as soccer and skiing.

Causes of Knee Fractures

Knee fractures are caused by stress or trauma or in a bone already compromised by disease, such as cancer or infection.

Symptoms of Knee Fractures

Fractures that occur at the knee joint may cause joint imperfections, irregular joint surfaces, and improper alignment in the legs. This can lead to joint instability, arthritis, and loss of motion.

Diagnosis of Knee Fractures

Diagnosis is made through your medical history, a physical examination and odering diagnostic imaging tests such as X-rays and CT scan to confirm the fracture.

Treatment of Knee Fractures

Treatment options for knee fractures include non-surgical and surgical methods. Non-surgical treatment involves skeletal traction and use of casts and braces. Skeletal traction involves placement of pin into the bone in order to realign the broken bones. Surgery involves internal fixation and external fixation.

Internal fixation

Internal fixation involves the below techniques:

  • Intramedullary nailing: In this procedure, a specially-designed metal rod is placed into the canal of the femur. A nail is passed through to reach the fracture site and keep it in place. The rod is secured in place with screws at both ends.
  • Plates and screws fixation: In this procedure, your surgeon repositions the broken bone ends into normal position and then uses special screws or metal plates on the outer surface of the bone to hold the bone fragments in place.

External fixation

During external fixation, metal pins or screws are inserted into the middle of the femur and tibia, and are attached to a device outside the skin to hold bone fragments in place to allow alignment and healing.

If your bone is fractured in many pieces, a plate or rod is fixed at both ends of the fracture to maintain the overall shape and length of the bone in place while it heals. In elder patients, where fracture healing delays, a bone graft taken from your own body or tissue bank may be used to form callous. In severe cases, the bone fragments are removed and the bone is replaced with a knee replacement implant.

Risks and Complications of Knee Fracture Surgery

The most common complications of surgery include:

  • Infection
  • Knee stiffness
  • Delayed bone healing
  • Knee arthritis