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Knee Fracture



  • A knee fracture is a break or crack in 1 or more of the bones in the knee joint.
  • Treatment depends on which bone or bones are broken and the type of fracture. You may need surgery, a cast or brace, medicine, and physical therapy. Use crutches or a cane as directed by your healthcare provider.


What is a knee fracture?

A knee fracture is a break or crack in 1 or more of the bones in the knee joint. It may be just a bend or small crack in the bone, or the bone may break into pieces or shatter. Some fractures may stick out through the skin.

The bones in the knee include the upper leg bone (also called the thighbone or femur), the 2 lower leg bones (the tibia and the fibula), and the kneecap (patella).

What is the cause?

Knee fractures can happen in many ways, such as during falls, car accidents, sports activities, or direct hits to the knee.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms may include:

  • Pain, swelling, bruising, or tenderness that happens right after the injury
  • Pain when the injured area is touched or that keeps you from putting weight on the leg
  • Trouble bending the knee
  • Pain made worse by movement
  • A grating feeling when the injured leg is moved and the broken bones grind against each other
  • Muscle spasms
  • A change in the shape of the leg

How is it diagnosed?

Your child’s healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and how the injury happened. Your provider will examine your child. Tests may include X-rays or other scans.

How it is treated?

The treatment depends on which bone or bones are broken and the type of fracture.

  • If your child has an open wound with the fracture, your child may need treatment to control bleeding or prevent infection.
  • Your child’s healthcare provider will move the broken pieces of bone into the correct place. Your child will first be given medicine so this straightening process is less painful.
  • Sometimes surgery is needed to put the bones or pieces of bones back into the right position. Your child’s providers may use wires, pins, screws, plates, or rods to hold pieces of bone together.
  • Your child’s provider may put the leg in a brace, splint, knee immobilizer, or cast to keep the knee from moving while it heals.
    • If your child has a cast, make sure the cast does not get wet. Cover the cast with plastic when your child bathes. Teach your child not to scratch the skin around the cast or put things down between the cast and the skin. This could cause an infection.
    • Your provider will tell you how much weight your child can put on the leg, if any. Your child may need to use crutches or a cane as directed by your healthcare provider.

With treatment, the fracture may take 4 to 6 weeks to heal. Your child may need to do special exercises to help the leg get stronger and more flexible. Ask your child’s healthcare provider about this.

How can I take care of my child?

Follow the full course of treatment your child’s healthcare provider prescribes.

To keep swelling down and help relieve pain, your child’s provider may tell you to:

  • Put an ice pack, gel pack, or package of frozen vegetables wrapped in a cloth on the injured area every 3 to 4 hours for up to 20 minutes at a time for the first day or two after the injury.
  • When your child sits or lies down, he or she should keep the injured leg up on pillows so that it is above the level of the heart. Keep the knee straight.
  • Give your child pain medicine as directed by the healthcare provider.

Ask your child’s healthcare provider:

  • How and when you will get your child’s test results
  • How long it will take for your child to recover
  • If there are activities your child should avoid and when your child can return to normal activities
  • How to take care of your child at home
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if your child has them

Make sure you know when your child should come back for a checkup.

How can I help prevent a knee fracture?

Most knee fractures are caused by accidents that are not easy to prevent. However, here are some things that may help prevent injury:

  • Wear shoes that fit well and give good support.
  • Gently stretch before and after physical activity.
  • If your child plays a sport that uses knee protection, be sure that the protective equipment fits properly.
  • Work and play safely.
Developed by Change Healthcare.
Pediatric Advisor 2022.1 published by Change Healthcare.
Last modified: 2019-04-30
Last reviewed: 2019-04-29
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2022 Change Healthcare LLC and/or one of its subsidiaries
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