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Evaluating Kneecap (Patella) Problems

You can find out what is causing your knee pain by having a thorough evaluation. You may see an orthopedist or a sports medicine healthcare provider, both of whom treat bone, muscle, and joint problems. Your healthcare provider will work with you to find the cause of your knee pain and design a treatment plan for you.

Taking your medical history

Your medical history gives your healthcare provider clues about the cause of your knee pain. It helps your healthcare provider set goals for your treatment. You’ll be asked about your pain and which activities make it worse. Your healthcare provider will also ask about prior knee problems.

Examining your knee

A physical exam helps your healthcare provider locate your specific knee problem. Your healthcare provider will look at and move your knee to find signs of swelling or tenderness. Then he or she will check to see how well your kneecap tracks. Other tests of knee function may also be done.

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MRI scan of the knee.

Performing tests

Diagnostic tests may help your healthcare provider learn more about your knee problem.

  • X-rays show the alignment and position of your bones, including your kneecap, and help detect if a fracture is present. A CT (computed tomography) scan can show more alignment details and can also help to detect the presence of a fracture.

  • An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) can show bone, cartilage, ligament, or muscle problems.

  • Arthroscopy uses a tiny camera to let your healthcare provider see inside your knee joint and possibly repair any damaged tissue. This procedure may be done under general or local anesthesia.

Online Medical Reviewer: Bass, Pat F. III, MD, MPH
Online Medical Reviewer: Joseph, Thomas N., MD
Date Last Reviewed: 10/13/2015
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