A knee dislocation is a devastating injury where at least three of the four main ligaments of the knee are torn and the tibia is dislocated away from the femur. These injuries usually result from high-velocity traumas, such as motor vehicle accidents. They can occur in sports like football and skiing.
Initial management of a knee dislocation
Urgent evaluation of these injuries is critical. If the tibia is dislocated at the time of presentation, attempts to reduce it are usually warranted. If these injuries occur in an athletic setting, team physicians or athletic trainers recognize the deformity and try to reduce the knee back into position immediately.
In an emergency department, physicians often obtain knee x-rays before attempting the reduction. Usually the knee relocates easily, but occasionally these can be irreducible injuries.
Blood vessel and nerve damage with a knee dislocation
Evaluation of the patient’s neurovascular status is crucial as well. Multi-ligament knee injuries and knee dislocations often involve enough trauma to injure the blood vessels and nerves around the knee along with the ligaments. Checking pulses in the foot and nerve function and performing vascular studies are often required. Recognition and emergent treatment of neurovascular injuries can save the lower leg.
Treatment of a multi-ligament knee injury
Treatment of multi-ligament knee injuries almost always involves surgery. Knowing which specific ligaments are torn, as well as the overall status of the knee and other bodily injuries, plays a role in surgical decision making.
Some surgeons treat these injuries in one surgery, which can require a three- to six-hour procedure to reconstruct the ACL and PCL and repair or reconstruct the MCL and/or LCL and posterolateral corner. Other surgeons choose to address the MCL, LCL, and posterolateral corner immediately. They then rehabilitate the patient and work to regain knee motion before returning weeks or months later to address the ACL and PCL.
Return to activities after surgery
Historically these injuries were life altering. Patients often developed knee stiffness and had permanent gait changes. With early surgical management and advanced arthroscopic procedures, patients more often return to fairly normal knee function and can perform normal daily activities and exercise. Returning to high-level sports is much less likely, though, due to the cutting and pivoting required with these activities.
Recommended Products and Resources
Click here to go to Dr. David Geier’s Amazon Influencer store!
Due to a large number of questions I have received over the years asking about products for health, injuries, performance, and other areas of sports, exercise, work and life, I have created an Amazon Influencer page. While this information and these products are not intended to treat any specific injury or illness you have, they are products I use personally, have used or have tried, or I have recommended to others. THE SITE MAY OFFER HEALTH, FITNESS, NUTRITIONAL AND OTHER SUCH INFORMATION, BUT SUCH INFORMATION IS DESIGNED FOR EDUCATIONAL AND INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY. THE CONTENT DOES NOT AND IS NOT INTENDED TO CONVEY MEDICAL ADVICE AND DOES NOT CONSTITUTE THE PRACTICE OF MEDICINE. YOU SHOULD NOT RELY ON THIS INFORMATION AS A SUBSTITUTE FOR, NOR DOES IT REPLACE, PROFESSIONAL MEDICAL ADVICE, DIAGNOSIS, OR TREATMENT. THE SITE IS NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR ANY ACTIONS OR INACTION ON A USER’S PART BASED ON THE INFORMATION THAT IS PRESENTED ON THE SITE. Please note that as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.