What Is a Luxating Patella?

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  • Written By: Dan Cavallari
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 12 October 2019
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A luxating patella is a type of knee injury common in both humans and dogs. The patella, more commonly known as the kneecap, dislocates or otherwise moves from its normal position within the joint, leading to pain, immobilization, and other detrimental conditions. An injury due to blunt trauma is one of the more common causes of a luxating patella, but this condition can also be congenital, and persist as the person or animal grows. Surgery may be necessary to treat this condition, though a doctor will need to do a thorough examination to make a proper diagnosis.

This condition is often known as patella tracking disorder when it occurs in humans, and it can be a fairly painful condition. The first treatment one should try when a luxating patella occurs is the RICE treatment. RICE stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. These actions will help reduce swelling and pain while encouraging blood flow and oxygen delivery to the injury. In minor cases, the patella pain may dissipate within a few days, but more severe luxating patella injuries may persist. The person suffering from the injury should visit a doctor if pain persists for more than a day or two.


In dogs, a luxating patella will become apparent within the first few months of the dog's life. The dog may experience pain while walking or may avoid walking altogether, and in many cases, a visual presentation of an abnormality will be evident. As with humans, the injury to the dog can be treated by immobilizing the affected leg and preventing the dog from doing anything strenuous like walking up or down stairs, though in more severe cases, an operation may be necessary to address the issue.

This injury often occurs in humans when the ligaments of the knee are damaged. Athletes are especially susceptible to this injury, as athletes are often susceptible to anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, tears. The luxating patella may be corrected as part of a surgery to repair the torn ligaments of the knee, and the recovery time in this instance can be fairly protracted. It is likely that the patient will experience some pain and tenderness for an extended period of time after the surgery, and the mobility of the joint may be limited temporarily or permanently. Many people who undergo surgery for this condition will wear supportive braces during and after the recovery phase to enhance support of the knee.


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