What Is It?

ACL Reconstruction is a surgical procedure meant to repair specific ligament damage in the knee joint, to the Anterior Cruciate ligament.

The knee joint is formed at the meeting place of the thighbone (femur)and shinbone (tibia). The joint is surrounded by various tissue and held together by four supporting ligaments. The Lateral Collateral Ligament (LCL) and Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) are located at the side of your knees and work to control sideways bending while limiting awkward, unusual movements. The Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) and Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL) are located inside the knee joint and work together to control and stabilize your knee’s flexion and extension. The ACL is the most well-known and significant of the four ligaments, as it runs diagonally through the middle of the knee joint, preventing forward shifting of the tibia (shinbone) in relation to the femur (thighbone). The ACL also provides rotational stability.

Why Is It Done?

Commonly recognized as a prevalent sports injury, ACL and other knee ligament damage frequently occurs when the joint buckles in an attempt to stop or change direction quickly. Damaged ligaments become sprained when slightly stretched or jerked loose, but are otherwise torn completely. Partial tears to the ACL may occur. Any injury to the ACL almost always includes damage to other structures within the knee joint, including the meniscus and cartilage on the surface of the bones.

A damaged or torn ligament can be distinguished fairly easily by the individual involved. A loud popping sound usually accompanies a tear, along with the feeling that your knee has given out from under you. Other common symptoms include intense pain and swelling, significant tenderness near the joint, and limited leg mobility that leads to discomfort while walking.

In the event of a torn ACL, non-surgical treatment will never fully heal the damaged tissue, but is sometimes suggested for elderly or low-activity individuals.

How Is It Done?

The diagnosis of ACL tear is typically confirmed and treated arthroscopically. Arthroscopic surgery is a minimally invasive procedure in which a thin tube (cannula) is used to examine the inside of a joint by inserting a high-definition, fiber optic camera through small incisions. Once able to visualize the joint from inside, arthroscopic surgery allows surgeons to diagnose specific joint injuries and diseases, and even provides a way to treat certain problems by utilizing surgical instruments through the cannulas.

Currently, reattachment of ligament tears of the ACL do not enjoy a high success rate. Therefore, ACL tears are completely reconstructed using a tissue graft which provides a platform for new ligament growth.

Physical therapy is incredibly important to regaining your original strength and mobility before and following surgery. Firm instructions regarding the dressing and cleaning of incisions will be provided by your doctor, followed by an extensive postoperative treatment and rehabilitation program. Full recovery from non-reconstructive surgeries may be achieved in 6-8 weeks, but is also reliant on the extent of the original injury. Due to the regrowth progress required following complete ACL reconstruction surgery, it will take six months or more to return to high-functioning physical activity.