The patella, commonly referred to as the kneecap, makes the muscles more efficient and absorbs much of the stress between the upper and lower portions of the leg. All of the different actions you perform with your legs can put pressure on the kneecap and knee joint that is up to seven times your normal body weight.

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, patella fractures are not the most common fractures. They tend to only occur when there is severe, direct trauma to the anterior (front) part of the knee. This type of severe, direct trauma can be caused by motor vehicle accidents, sports injuries, and/or falls onto hard surfaces.

Do you have questions about patella fracture or other types of orthopaedic surgery or want to contact Dr. Ahluwalia for an appointment? Call us today at (310) 659-2910.

What Makes Patellar Fractures So Complicated?

The rare nature of patella fractures is one of the main reasons why they are not understood as well as tibia or femur fractures. Most orthopaedic surgeons agree that x-ray imaging, the imaging technique of choice for bone injuries, is often difficult to interpret due to the overlying femur obscuring small fractures of the patella.

Fortunately for patients of Dr. Ahluwalia, they are in the hands of one of the most experienced and knowledgeable orthopaedic surgeons in the country. His extensive training and experience in sports medicine and trauma surgery has given him a unique view of patella fractures as he has a lot of experience when it comes to knee injuries. Most orthopedic surgeons won’t have trouble diagnosing a common injury like an ACL tear, but it’s Dr. Ahluwalia’s ability to diagnose and treat the rare knee injuries like patella fractures that makes him the leading orthopaedic specialist in Southern California.

Signs and Symptoms of a Patella Fracture

If you have suffered a fractured kneecap, you should seek immediate medical attention as limb and life threatening complications can occur without appropriate treatment. Some signs and symptoms you may experience with a kneecap fracture include:

  • Severe pain in and around the kneecap
  • Inability to walk or put weight on the knee
  • Swelling or bleeding into the knee joint
  • Pain when moving the knee
  • Inability to raise or extend your leg
  • A deformed appearance of the knee
  • Tenderness along the kneecap
  • Visible or palpable defect of the kneecap

Diagnosis of Patella Fracture

Dr. Ahluwalia can often diagnose a fractured kneecap by discussing the details of the incident which caused the injury as well as performing a thorough physical exam and ordering imaging studies.

Medical History – Dr. Ahluwalia will take a thorough medical history. During this time he will focus on the incident or accident that caused the injury to your knee. It’s extremely important to be honest and candid regarding the details of the injury.

Physical Examination – Dr. Ahluwalia will examine your knee, focusing on where the pain, swelling, and deformity are located. He will ask you to raise your leg or extend your knee to help determine the extent of damage that has occurred.

Imaging Studies – If a patella fracture is suspected it can be evaluated more thoroughly with a complete set of knee X-rays. If Dr. Ahluwalia thinks you may have associated tendon or ligament damage he will also order an MRI to get a better look at these structures.

Patella Fracture Fixation

The approach toward repair and fixation of your patella fracture will directly correspond to the severity and extent of your injury. In general there are 2 procedures used to repair and treat a patella fracture:

Open reduction-internal fixation (ORIF)

As the name suggests, this technique will allow Dr. Ahluwalia to open up your knee and access the underlying structures. He will then reduce the fracture by putting the patella back together. After the pieces of the bone have been joined, they will be held together and the incision is closed.


This procedure targets the removal of the damaged portion(s) of the kneecap. This option is reserved for fractures that are too severe to repair, leaving removal of the damaged bone as the best treatment option.

These surgical techniques are designed to preserve the quadriceps tendon above the patella, as well as the tendons and soft tissues that surround the patella.

Recovery After Patella Fracture Surgery

Following your patella fracture surgery you be taken to the recovery room where you will be monitored while the effects of the anesthesia wear off. You will awake with a splint, brace, or cast on your knee to hold it in place as it heals. After you show some degree of recovery, you will be discharged to continue your recovery at home. Dr. Ahluwalia will address several aspects of your recovery with you including:

  • Medications – These may include antibiotics to prevent an infection, pain killers to provide comfort during your recovery period, and anticoagulants to prevent the formation of blood clots.
  • Exercise – Continuous passive movements of your legs can decrease knee pain and stiffness following surgery.
  • Crutches or a cane – Immediately after knee surgery you will be allowed to bear weight in the brace/cast. Crutches or a cane can serve as helpful assistants while you regain the appropriate strength and range of motion needed to walk on your own.
  • Follow-Up – You will have a follow up appointment with Dr. Ahluwalia at his Beverly Hills practice where he will assess your recovery and discuss physical therapy and exercise goals and limitations.

To find out more about patella fracture surgery or to get the answers to any questions you may still have, call Dr. Ahluwalia and his staff today. We look forward to hearing from you!