The ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) is a primary stabilizing structure for the knee. Sports injuries often cause ACL strain or tear. If an athlete slows down and attempts to pivot, cut, or change directions, an ACL can become strained or tear. When an ACL injury causes ligaments on the inside of the knee to tear completely, it can lead to invasive treatments and extended recovery times.
A slight ACL strain or tear may be healed without invasive surgery using rest and ice. As scar tissue forms, it helps to repair the ligament, resulting in increased knee stability. Then different types of physical therapy, rehabilitative exercises, or aquatic therapies can be used to hasten recovery.
A complete ACL tear would require surgery, however. Several months of recovery time with aggressive physical therapy would likely be needed before the patient would be able to return to normal sports and everyday activities.
ACL Reconstructive Surgery Explained
To make a fully informed decision, you may want to gain an understanding of how ACL surgery is performed and what to expect from the procedure.
If you have a torn ACL, surgery will likely be needed to restore full function to your knee. The tear will not heal on its own. The doctor will take into account several factors, such as the extent and severity of your injury and your typical activity level. An ACL injury usually requires reconstructive surgery using tissue grafts. In most cases, the torn ligament cannot be sewn back together.
A torn ACL ligament is rebuilt using tissue grafts, usually taken from tendons in your legs. Grafts are typically obtained from several sources. They are frequently taken from the patellar tendon, which runs between the shin bone and the kneecap. Hamstring tendons from the back of the thigh are also a common source of tissue grafts. Sometimes the quadriceps tendon, which runs between the thigh and the kneecap, is used. Cadaver grafts are also an option.
Understanding the basics and risks of a reconstructive procedure can help you and your knee doctor to work together to devise a recovery plan.
The ACL Reconstruction Procedure
The ACL reconstruction surgery is done while you are asleep under general anesthesia using knee arthroscopy. This is quite a minimally-invasive procedure. It uses an extremely small camera and surgical instruments that are inserted through small incisions in the knee. The surgeon will likely remove the damaged ligament or what’s left of it, and repair any other knee damage. The tissue graft is fitted into the same place as the ACL, then attached to the bones on either end with screws or buttons. These actions can hold the new ligament in place as it heals. Typically, the tissue grafts used in the surgery come from your own body. They can also be taken from a cadaver or a donor. The grafts are used to create your new ligament.
ACL reconstruction surgery typically works well and restores your knee stability. If you’re wondering if you need ACL reconstruction, a doctor, like a knee doctor from Premier Osteoarthritis Centers of Pennsylvania, can help. Schedule an appointment with a local professional today to find out more about the benefits you may receive.