Knee dislocation is a highly perilous injury that can occur during exercise and sports. In this article, we will explore the nature of this injury and delve into its treatment.
The knee joint is a complex structure situated at the intersection of the thigh bone and the shin bone. Within the knee, three bones converge: the femur, the patella, and the shinbone. Moreover, various types of cartilage, ligaments, and tendons play crucial roles in maintaining normal knee function. Consequently, knee dislocations are severe injuries that have a significant impact on numerous surrounding elements. They can cause pain and impair the ability to walk normally, especially when they damage other ligaments, blood vessels, and nerves.
So, what exactly is a knee dislocation?
Knee dislocation occurs when the femur’s position in relation to the shinbone becomes misaligned and deviates from its normal position. It can happen due to structural abnormalities within the knee. Some individuals are born with congenital knee dislocation. However, in most cases, knee dislocation results from a forceful injury that forcefully displaces the knee joint’s bones from their typical position. This condition demands immediate treatment and causes significant pain for the affected individual.
In cases of knee dislocation, both the thigh and shin bones may experience complete or partial displacement. It’s important to note that knee dislocation differs from patellar dislocation, where the kneecap (patella) shifts out of place, sometimes referred to as subcutaneous hyperplasia by medical professionals. Knee dislocation is a rare occurrence but carries extremely serious consequences. It can lead to injuries in various other parts of the knee. Dislocations have the potential to harm critical ligaments, blood vessels, and nerves, thereby impacting the overall health and structural integrity of the joint, posing risks to the individual’s ability to walk and the functioning of the affected leg
Causes of Knee Dislocation
Some individuals are born with a congenital knee dislocation, meaning they have this condition from birth. However, in typically developing individuals, knee dislocations can still occur as a result of significant injuries, such as:
- Vehicle Accidents: In the event of an accident where your knee strikes a hard surface like the car dashboard or another solid object, the impact can be forceful enough to cause knee dislocation.
- Sports and Training Injuries: Although less common than accidents, knee dislocation can occur during sports or training activities. It may happen when a knee is struck forcefully by another player or the ground while the knee is bent or when the knee is hyperextended (bent backward beyond its normal range) during exercise.
- Falls onto Hard Surfaces: Skiers or runners who lose control and land with their knees bent or hyperextended are at risk of knee dislocation. Some individuals may also experience knee dislocation when falling after tripping or stepping into a hole in the ground while walking.
Symptoms of Knee Dislocation
The symptoms associated with knee dislocation typically manifest immediately and tend to worsen over time. On rare occasions, the knee may spontaneously return to its normal position after a dislocation; however, this is an infrequent occurrence. Typically, this injury presents with the following symptoms:
- An audible “crashing” sound at the time of the injury.
- Intense pain in the knee region, to the extent that it becomes difficult to move or straighten the leg.
- Pronounced swelling and bruising in the knee area.
- Visible deformity of the knee joint.
- An unusual, unstable sensation in the knee, accompanied by a feeling that certain parts of the knee are not in their usual position.
- Restricted range of motion in the knee, resulting in pain when attempting vigorous movements.
- Impaired ability to perform various activities, whether they are daily tasks or sports-related activities.
How is Knee Dislocation Diagnosed?
Following an injury, it is essential for the victim to seek immediate medical attention. The initial focus will be on providing first aid, followed by a comprehensive assessment of the knee’s clinical condition to identify any potential injuries. Once the patient’s condition stabilizes, the doctor can proceed to evaluate the extent of the knee injury. This assessment often involves a series of tests aimed at determining the degree of ligament damage and assessing the knee’s stability and range of motion.
Given that a knee dislocation can potentially damage blood vessels and nerves within the joint, a thorough examination is crucial to determine the presence of such injuries. This evaluation may encompass the following components:
- Initial Examination: The doctor will visually inspect the knee, inquire about the circumstances of the injury, and observe for signs of deformity and swelling. Additionally, they will assess the patient’s ability to move the knee. Examination of different areas of the leg may be performed to identify any damaged ligaments, which typically result from a knee dislocation. The doctor will also inspect the skin from the knee down to the feet, as the injury can impact nerves and blood vessels, potentially leading to changes in skin color and temperature. Severe complications may arise if blood flow or sensory function below the knee is affected, potentially resulting in the need for amputation in severe cases.
- Ankle-Brachial Blood Pressure Test: This test is employed to detect alterations in blood flow. By comparing the blood pressure in the ankle with the standard blood pressure in the arm, doctors can identify any blood flow issues caused by the dislocation.
- Nerve Conduction Testing and Electromyography (EMG): These tests are conducted to assess the condition of the muscles and nerves. Surface electrodes are attached to the muscles to record electrical activity, allowing doctors to measure the speed and strength of nerve signals. Electromyography (EMG) and nerve conduction velocity (NCV) tests provide insights into nerve function in the legs and knees.
- Imaging: Diagnostic imaging techniques are used to visualize the internal structures of the knee. X-rays confirm the dislocation of bones from the joint and can reveal any associated fractures. An MRI scan is instrumental in assessing damage to ligaments and soft tissues. It also aids in preparing for repositioning treatments. MRI or ultrasound may be used to detect nerve injuries resulting from the accident. Additionally, an angiogram, an X-ray that outlines blood flow in arteries and veins, may be ordered to assess potential blood vessel damage caused by knee dislocation.
In the case of Congenital Knee Dislocation (CKD), a rare condition where the knee joint is dislocated at birth, diagnosis occurs after birth through X-ray images of the affected joint. Treatment options may include casting or serial surgeries to address this condition.
Treatment Methods for Knee Dislocation
The approach to treating knee dislocation is contingent upon the severity of the injury. During diagnosis and treatment, your healthcare provider will administer pain medication or sedatives to alleviate discomfort. Typically, there are two treatment options for this condition:
- Non-Surgical Option: If the damage to your knee is not extensive, your doctor may attempt to reposition your bones by manipulating your leg in specific ways and adjusting the positioning of your foot to return the kneecap to its proper alignment. Following the successful repositioning of your joint, you may be required to wear a brace for several weeks. This brace is essential for immobilizing your knee, preventing excessive movement, and protecting it from potential impacts.
- Surgical Options: In cases where the dislocation has resulted in additional injuries, such as fractures, torn ligaments, nerve damage, or damage to blood vessels, surgical intervention may be necessary. Surgery may be required to repair damaged ligaments, blood vessels, or nerves. In instances of vascular damage, immediate surgery may be imperative.
Depending on the circumstances, surgery might be postponed for a period ranging from 1 to 3 weeks to allow time for the leg to reduce swelling. During this interim period, you will need to wear a brace, elevate your leg, and apply ice to the affected area. Surgical procedures can involve arthroscopic knee surgery, which is performed through small incisions around the knee, or open surgery with larger incisions. The choice between these methods is contingent upon the extent of damage to the rest of the knee.
Recovery after surgery
After surgery, you will need to wear different knee braces until it heals. Some splints help you move and move slightly to relieve stiffness. After you’re done wearing the brace or brace, your doctor should send you to a physical therapist to rehabilitate your knee. You’ll do exercises to strengthen the calf muscles around the knee and help bring full range of motion to your joint.
Your ability to recover will depend on the severity of your injury and whether you have damaged blood vessels and nerves. If you get prompt treatment, the wound will heal well and recover quickly. Recovery from a knee dislocation can take a long time. You will recover faster if you follow your doctor’s advice. In athletes and athletes, it is often possible to return to sport after such an injury, but they will not be able to perform at the same level and intensity as before.
Outlook for recovery
Although knee dislocation can be cured and recovered, it is also easy to leave sequelae if not treated in time. The outlook for people with injuries like this often depends on many factors, such as:
- How the injury occurred.
- Degree of joint damage.
- Whether there is damage to blood vessels or nerves.
- The method of treatment used.
- The individual’s adherence to treatment, abstinence, and restorative therapy guidelines.
It is important that you quickly recognize and treat a dislocated knee joint. In addition to vascular and nerve damage, other complications can include compartment syndrome and deep vein thrombosis. If blood vessel damage is detected and repaired in time, your outlook is good. However, if it goes undetected, an amputation above the knee may be necessary.
In cases of nerve damage, it may be difficult for you to return to full activity levels after treatment. Rehabilitation for a dislocated knee can take 9 to 12 months. In some people who have completed treatment and rehabilitation programs, some degree of stiffness, pain, or dysfunction may still occur in the affected knee.
In general, a knee dislocation is a serious injury with the potential to cause damage and leave serious sequelae if not treated appropriately and promptly. Therefore, in the process of exercising and playing sports, it is necessary to pay attention to amplitude and technique to avoid these dangerous injuries. Besides, it is necessary to persevere in gym, yoga and sports exercises so that the body has the ability to recover quickly after injuries.
Recovery After Surgery
Following surgery, you will be required to wear various knee braces during the healing process. Some of these braces are designed to facilitate controlled movement and reduce stiffness. Once your brace or splint is no longer needed, your doctor will refer you to a physical therapist for knee rehabilitation. During these rehabilitation sessions, you will engage in exercises aimed at strengthening the calf muscles surrounding your knee and restoring full range of motion to your joint.
The pace of your recovery hinges on the severity of your injury and whether there has been any damage to blood vessels or nerves. Timely treatment can lead to successful wound healing and a faster recovery. Nonetheless, it’s important to acknowledge that recuperation from a knee dislocation can be a lengthy process. Compliance with your doctor’s recommendations can significantly expedite your recovery. In the case of athletes and active individuals, a return to sports activity is often feasible after such an injury, although performance levels may not reach the same intensity and capacity as before.
Prospects for Recovery
While knee dislocations can be treated and result in recovery, failing to seek timely treatment may lead to long-term consequences. The outlook for individuals with such injuries is influenced by various factors, including:
- The circumstances in which the injury occurred.
- The extent of joint damage.
- The presence of damage to blood vessels or nerves.
- The treatment method employed.
- Adherence to treatment, rest, and rehabilitation guidelines.
Swift recognition and treatment of a dislocated knee joint are crucial. Apart from potential vascular and nerve damage, complications may include compartment syndrome and deep vein thrombosis. If blood vessel damage is identified and repaired promptly, the outlook is generally positive. However, if it goes unnoticed, amputation above the knee may become necessary.
In cases of nerve damage, returning to full activity levels after treatment can pose challenges. Rehabilitation for a dislocated knee typically spans 9 to 12 months. Some individuals who have undergone treatment and rehabilitation programs may still experience varying degrees of stiffness, pain, or dysfunction in the affected knee.
In summary, a knee dislocation is a serious injury with the potential for lasting consequences if not promptly and appropriately treated. Therefore, it is crucial to pay attention to technique and range of motion during exercise and sports activities to avoid these potentially severe injuries. Additionally, maintaining consistency in gym, yoga, and sports exercises can enhance the body’s ability to recover quickly following injuries.
Johnny Jacks was born in 1985 in Texas, USA. He is the founder of Good Health Plan and is passionate about helping people improve their health and physical well-being. With over a decade of experience working in the healthcare industry, he currently works at Goodheathplan.com – a blog that shares knowledge on beauty and health.