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What is Involved in Dislocated Knee Surgery?

Dan Cavallari
Dan Cavallari

While a dislocated knee is a very rare injury, they do occur most commonly in industrial settings or high impact situations such as automobile accidents. A dislocated knee surgery is necessary to correct the dislocation, and recovery time will vary based on a number of factors including the injured person's age, physical health, and resistance to infection. When a knee is dislocated, three or more ligaments that comprise the knee are damaged or torn, so those ligaments will need to be repaired during dislocated knee surgery. More commonly, a kneecap can become dislocated, requiring a different kind of dislocated knee surgery.

When a kneecap — known as the patella — dislocates, it can cause pain or discomfort during everyday activities such as walking. Physical therapy is usually enough to relieve the pain and prevent further injury, but in more severe cases, dislocated knee surgery may be necessary to keep the knee cap in line. As the leg moves, the kneecap moves up and down; when this normal movement is impeded or otherwise put off track, the kneecap is then said to be dislocated. Tight ligaments can cause such movement out of place, and as the ligaments tense and tighten, the kneecap is pulled further out of place. The dislocated knee surgery to correct this issue involves relieving some of that tension placed on the patella by cutting the tight ligaments and allowing the patella to return to the position in which it is normally supposed to be.

A diagram of the knee.
A diagram of the knee.

A rarer injury is a full knee dislocation, in which the femur and the patella separate and the ligaments that connect the two bones are torn. This injury is often the result of a significant impact, though it can occur in less severe injuries such as the ones endured during athletic events. The surgery to repair the dislocated knee can involve several procedures that will realign the knee and reconstruct the torn ligaments surrounding the bones. If damage to arteries has occurred, the damage must be addressed during surgery to prevent more severe injury from occurring. Damage to the bones, including fractures, will also be addressed during surgery.

A scalpel is a small, sharp knife that is used in surgeries to make incisions.
A scalpel is a small, sharp knife that is used in surgeries to make incisions.

Once the ligaments have been reconstructed and the knee has been realigned, a long period of physical rehabilitation will be necessary to restore mobility to the knee. Even after long periods of physical therapy, full motion may or may not be restored, and the knee may not function as it did before. In a best case scenario, a patient will recover with little or no loss of mobility; more commonly, however, a patient will recover with some mobility loss or lingering pain.

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    • A diagram of the knee.
      By: Alila
      A diagram of the knee.
    • A scalpel is a small, sharp knife that is used in surgeries to make incisions.
      By: iofoto
      A scalpel is a small, sharp knife that is used in surgeries to make incisions.
    • Although rare, surgery may sometimes be necessary for severe problems with a dislocated knee.
      By: Gennadiy Poznyakov
      Although rare, surgery may sometimes be necessary for severe problems with a dislocated knee.