What is a Dislocated Knee?

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  • Written By: Madeleine A.
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 01 February 2019
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A dislocated knee refers to a knee in which the bones are displaced. When this occurs,the bones will not properly fit together. Sometimes, a dislocated knee can occur when knee ligaments are torn. Ligaments are the strong, tough tissue bands that connect bones to one another. Typical ways in which a dislocated knee can occur are hitting the knee strongly; hyper extending the leg, where it would straighten past the normal position; and twisting of the body, where the body moves while the feet stay in place.

Generally, dislocated knee symptoms include severe pain, inability to straighten or bend the knee, rapid knee swelling, knee deformity, and numbness or tingling in the foot. Usually, a dislocated knee can be diagnosed by a physical examination. The physician will typically ask the patient about his symptoms and how he hurt his knee. Following the physical evaluation, the patient generally will have x-rays to evaluate the injury and to determine if there are any broken bones.

Many times, the physician will check the pulse located on the ankle. By checking this pulse, the physician may be able to determine if the knee injury caused damage to any blood vessels. An MRI may also be recommended to get a better view of damaged knee structure. Normally, a dislocated knee will need to be treated right away. By treating the knee injury quickly, permanent damage to blood vessels and nerves may be prevented.


Sometimes, the physician may attempt to put the knee back into its normal position manually. Manipulating the injured knee back into its proper position is often easier if performed soon after injuries occur. Typically, if the patient does not get immediate medical care following his dislocated knee injury, the physician may administer an anesthetic prior to repositioning the knee back into place to help prevent muscle spasms and pain. After the knee has been properly placed back into its normal position, a knee splint may be worn to immobilize the knee for a few weeks.

Often, depending on the severity of the knee injury, range of motion exercises or a physical therapy regimen may be recommended. Exercises are important after a knee dislocation to prevent loss of strength in the leg. Sometimes, emergency surgical intervention may be necessary to treat this type of injury. The patient may need knee surgery if the artery in back of the knee is injured or if the skin is compromised, exposing the bone.



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