Voluntary femoro-tibial subluxations: a benign differential diagnosis in the snapping knee of a child

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Voluntary femoro-tibial subluxation is a rare entity predominantly found in pretoddlers. It presents as a dynamic phenomenon with uni- or bilateral audible snapping of the knee, often in a context of fatigue or irritation at the end of the day. The aim of the study was to observe the evolution and recovery in these patients.


Ten children were included. Other causes of dislocating joints and pathologies with snapping of the lateral meniscus were excluded from this study. Six-week immobilisation with a splint at 70° of knee flexion was primarily recommended to all patients.


The mean age at onset of symptoms was 10 months. Forty percent of the patients presented with bilateral symptoms. Clinically, four patients were hyperlax. In all patients, subluxations could be reproduced passively by rotating the foot externally and advancing the internal tibial plateau anteriorly. Three of the patients were treated with a dorsal splint and experienced significantly less or cessation of symptoms. Two patients underwent surgery, one for a concomitant anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) rupture and meniscus tear that worsened the symptoms, another for concomitant patella dislocation and a meniscus tear. One patient’s parents refused treatment and four patients experienced less symptoms at the time of consultation and were not immobilized. Except for the two patients undergoing surgeries, no sequelae were observed. In general, the symptoms got less frequent when the patient began to walk.


Voluntary femoro-tibial subluxation in children is a rare and benign condition that often resolves spontaneously without sequelae. The risk of meniscus tear should, however, be considered if subluxations do not cease.

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Correspondence to B. Kwiatkowski.

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Kwiatkowski, B., Mouton, C., Raux, S. et al. Voluntary femoro-tibial subluxations: a benign differential diagnosis in the snapping knee of a child. Knee Surg Sports Traumatol Arthrosc (2020) doi:10.1007/s00167-019-05831-6

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  • Femoro-tibial subluxation
  • Knee subluxation
  • Voluntary subluxation