Knee Fracture

You have a break, or fracture, of the knee joint. This causes pain, swelling, and sometimes bruising.

This type of fracture is treated with a splint, cast, or knee brace, also called an immobilizer. It will take about 4 to 6 weeks or more for the fracture to heal. But it may take much longer for you to fully recover and go back to all your activities. Surgery may be needed to fix severe injuries.

Home care

  • You will be given a splint, cast, or knee brace to prevent your knee joint from moving. Use crutches or a walker, unless you were told otherwise. Don’t bear weight on your injured leg until your provider says it’s OK to do so. Crutches and walkers can be rented at many pharmacies and surgical or orthopedic supply stores.

  • Keep your leg raised, or elevated, to reduce pain and swelling. When sleeping, place a pillow under your injured leg. When sitting, support your injured leg so it is above heart level. This is very important during the first 48 hours.

  • Apply an ice pack over the injured area for no more than 15 to 20 minutes. Do this every 1 to 2 hours for the first 24 to 48 hours. Keep using ice packs as needed to ease pain and swelling.

  • To make an ice pack, put ice cubes in a plastic bag that seals at the top. Wrap the bag in a clean, thin towel or cloth. Never put ice or an ice pack directly on your skin. The ice pack can be put right on the cast, splint, or brace. As the ice melts, be careful that the cast, splint, or brace doesn’t get wet.

  • If you have a hook-and-loop closure knee brace, and your healthcare provider approves, open the brace to put the ice pack directly on your knee. Wrap the ice pack in a clean, thin towel or cloth. Be careful not to move your knee. 

  • Keep the cast, splint, or brace dry at all times. Bathe with your cast, splint, or brace out of the water. Protect it with 2 large plastic bags. Place 1 bag around the other. Tape each bag with duct tape at the top end or use rubber bands. Water can still leak in. So it's best to keep the cast, splint, or brace away from water. If a fiberglass splint or cast gets wet, dry it with a hair dryer on a cool setting.

  • You may use over-the-counter pain medicine to ease pain, unless another pain medicine was prescribed. Always talk with your provider before using these medicines if you have chronic liver or kidney disease, or ever had a stomach ulcer or GI (gastrointestinal) bleeding. 

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider within 1 week, or as advised. This is to be sure the bone is healing correctly.

If any X-rays were taken, you will be told of any new findings that may affect your care.

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of the following occur:

  • The plaster cast or splint gets wet or soft

  • The fiberglass cast or splint stays wet for more than 24 hours

  • The cast or splint has a bad smell

  • The plaster cast or splint becomes loose

  • There is increased knee pain or tightness under the brace, splint, or cast

  • Your toes become swollen, cold, blue, numb, or tingly

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