If your child’s patella remains dislocated, go to the emergency room. To put the kneecap back in place, your doctor may give your child pain medication to relax his or her knee muscles, and then gently apply pressure to move the kneecap back into place. This process is called a “reduction.”
Because a dislocation often damages knee tissue, the patella often remains looser, or more unstable, than it was before the injury. As a result, the patella may dislocate again. Recurrences also are common if the dislocation was caused by an irregularity in the knee structure. Ongoing exercises, such as cycling, can strengthen quadriceps muscles in the thigh and prevent future patellar dislocations.
If your child’s patella dislocates multiple times, or continues to be unstable despite therapy and bracing, surgery may be recommended to correct the problem. The type of surgery will depend on the cause of the unstable kneecap.
Surgical treatments often involve reconstructing the ligaments that hold the patella in place. This surgery is sometimes performed arthroscopically—using a tiny camera and miniature surgical instruments inserted through small incisions.
Repeated dislocation caused by a congenital or other bone deformity may require more complex surgical treatment.
Once the knee has returned to full motion and strength, your doctor will likely allow your child to resume normal activities. A full return to more demanding sports may take more time. It is also important that the child feels comfortable and ready to resume activity.