Skip to Content

Patellar Fracture


A patellar fracture

A patellar fracture is a break in your kneecap. Treatment depends on how the kneecap breaks. Broken pieces may move out of line or break through the skin.

Knee Anatomy

Common signs and symptoms:

  • Pain when your knee is touched or when you move your leg
  • Swelling and bruising around your knee
  • Being able to straighten your leg but not to bend it
  • Not being able to stand up or put weight on your leg

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

  • You suddenly feel lightheaded and short of breath.
  • You have chest pain when you take a deep breath or cough.
  • You cough up blood.

Seek care immediately if:

  • Your cast or splint breaks or gets damaged.
  • Your foot or toes are swollen, cold, numb, or they turn white or blue.
  • Your leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.

Call your doctor or bone specialist if:

  • You have a fever.
  • Your pain gets worse, even after treatment.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


may include any of the following:

  • A brace, cast, or splint may be needed. These supportive devices stop the kneecap from moving and help it heal. You may also need to use crutches to help you move around while your kneecap heals.
  • Medicines can help prevent or fight pain or a bacterial infection. You may also need a Td vaccine. This vaccine is a booster shot to help prevent tetanus. You may need the Td vaccine if bone broke through the skin.
  • Closed reduction may be used to move the broken pieces back to their correct places without surgery. External fixation may be used to hold your kneecap in place, and then removed.
  • Surgery may be used to move the broken pieces back into their correct positions. Wires, pins, screws, or bands may be used to hold the pieces in place. Surgery may also be used to remove part or all of your kneecap.
  • Physical therapy may be recommended. A physical therapist teaches you exercises to help improve movement and strength, and to decrease pain.

Brace, cast, or splint care:

  • Check the skin around the device every day. Apply lotion to any red or sore areas.
  • Ask your healthcare provider when you can bathe. Do not get the device wet. Cover it with 2 plastic bags. Tape the bags above the device to prevent water from getting in. Keep your knee out of the water as much as possible.
  • Do not push or lean on any part of the cast or splint.
  • Do not put any sharp or pointed objects inside the cast.


  • Rest your knee as directed. Crutches help rest and support your knee when you walk. Your healthcare provider will tell you when you can start to use crutches. Follow instructions about how much weight to put on your leg.
    Walking with Crutches
  • Apply ice to help decrease swelling and pain. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel before you place it on your knee or supportive device. Apply ice for 15 to 20 minutes every hour for 2 days, or as directed.
    Ice and Elevation
  • Elevate your knee above the level of your heart as often as you can. This will help decrease swelling and pain. prop your leg on pillows or blankets to keep it elevated comfortably. Do not put pillows directly under your knee.

Follow up with your doctor or bone specialist as directed:

You may need to return to have your stitches removed. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Ā© Copyright IBM Corporation 2021 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotesĀ® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or IBM Watson Health

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Patellar Fracture (Ambulatory Care)

IBM Watson Micromedex

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.