ACL Repair: No Longer Just for the Pros
When you think of ACL injuries, famous athletes are probably the first people who come to mind. But undergoing surgery to repair a torn ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) is becoming more and more common among everyday folks who have suffered an injury to the knee during a sporting activity, on the job or in a serious accident.
What is the ACL?
Think of the knee as a hinge, and that hinge is held together by four ligaments, which connect bone to bone and help the joint move. One of these ligaments, located deep inside the knee, is the ACL, which controls how far forward the leg can move. A torn ACL can cause the knee to slide too far forward during motion. Surgery can restore stability to the knee and allow you to return to your former level of activity.
What Happens During Surgery?
There are non-surgical options, such as physical therapy, but most people with a torn ACL should consider reconstructive surgery. And there are several different procedures that will be considered based on your age and level of physical activity.
Most commonly, the ACL ligament is surgically replaced or rebuilt, often using a tendon taken from your hamstring, or more likely, another part of your knee. This replacement tendon is called the "graft." Your doctor will make two small incisions on the knee and remove the tendon through one of the incisions, assisted by a thin scope that is inserted into the knee to help him or her view the procedure. The familiar term "arthroscopic surgery" refers to the use of this scope. A tiny tunnel is then usually drilled in the tibia and femur (the two bones that are joined at the knee) and the graft is threaded through the holes and secured by tiny screws and/or staples. A new kind of screw may be used on some patients that will absorb into the body over time, eliminating the need for follow-up surgery to remove them.
What About Rehabilitation?
Your therapy will depend upon the type of procedure that was done, particularly if you needed additional surgery on the structures surrounding the ACL, such as the meniscus cartilage. Typically, your doctor will recommend an aggressive form of therapy that will help you get up and around very quickly - resuming normal daily living and work in as little as four to six weeks. And you could return to sports within six months.
Many people who are considering elective knee surgery and require some other type of surgery, such as gall bladder or hysterectomy, may choose to combine the two surgeries.Return to LEARN MORE