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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 doctor, both of whom treat bone, muscle, and joint problems. Your doctor 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 doctor clues about the cause of your knee pain. It helps your doctor set goals for your treatment. You’ll be asked about your pain and which activities make it worse. Your doctor will also ask about prior knee problems.

Examining Your Knee

A physical exam helps your doctor locate your specific knee problem. Your doctor 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.

MRI scan of the knee.

Performing Tests

Diagnostic tests may help your doctor learn more about your knee problem.

  • X-rays show the alignment and position of your bones, including your kneecap, and helpdetect 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 doctor see inside your knee joint and possibly repair any damaged tissue. This procedure may be done under general or local anesthesia.

Online Medical Reviewer: Image reviewed by StayWell medical illustration team.
Online Medical Reviewer: Moloney Johns, Amanda, PA-C, MPAS, BBA
Online Medical Reviewer: newMentor board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Date Last Reviewed: 3/12/2013
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