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Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction

Home Specialties Knees Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction

What Is Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction?

Anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction, also known as ACL reconstruction, refers to a surgical procedure that involves replacing a torn ligament in the center of the knee with a piece of tendon obtained from deceased donor or another part of your knee. It is usually done by a special doctor with expertise in bone and joint surgeries known as an orthopedic surgeon.

When Is ACL Reconstruction Recommended?

Generally, a doctor may recommend this procedure if you:

  • Have an injured cartilage or ligament in your knee
  • Have a knee that buckles while undertaking your daily activities
  • Are an athlete who wants to continue with sports that involve pivoting, jumping, or cutting
  • Are still young and active
  • Have pain due to a damaged knee
  • Have a meniscus tear

What Happens During ACL Reconstruction?

Typically, ACL reconstruction surgery is an outpatient medical procedure done via small incisions around the damaged knee. The procedure is performed with the help of knee arthroscopy, where a small camera connected to a video monitor is inserted into your knee.

Proper ACL reconstruction accompanied with good rehabilitative practices results in quick recovery, minimal or no complications, full motion range of your knee and minimal pain or stiffness.

Dr. Doerr Orthopedic Surgeon

What Are The Types Of ACL Reconstruction?

The type of ACL reconstruction surgery depends on where the replacement tendon or graft is derived. It also depending on the severity of the knee damage. Your surgeon may use an autograft or allograft to reconstruct the injured knee ligament.

Autograft

An autograft is a graft harvested from a part of your own body, such as hamstring tendons and patellar tendon. Autografts can also be harvested from quadriceps tendon located above your kneecap.

Allograft

Allograft on the other hand, is a graft obtained from a donor. The donor is usually a young deceased patient free of bacterial or viral disease with healthy tendon tissue.

Complications and Risks

Although ACL reconstruction surgery is generally a safe procedure, it may result in certain complications or risks such as:

  • Infection at the surgical site
  • Inefficiency to relieve the symptoms of the torn knee ligament, including pain and inflammation
  • Kneecap grating
  • Allergic reactions or complications associated with the anesthetics administered prior to the procedure
  • Blood clots within the damaged leg
  • Failure of the knee to heal
  • Inability to regain full motion range or normal strength of the knee
  • Numbness and nerve damage around the knee
  • Scarring and re-injury

To ensure successful anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction, it is advisable to seek medical attention as soon as the symptoms of the injury appear. Undergoing the procedure in time helps in minimizing any potential complications.

How Do I Prepare For ACL Reconstruction?

Successful ACL construction involves proper preparation on your part. Occasionally, your physician may recommend physical therapy that lasts for a couple of weeks before the surgery. Remember, the goal of ACL reconstruction is to relieve the symptoms of the damaged knee and restore it to its normal state; hence, the therapy.

Be sure to share with your doctor the information regarding any dietary supplements or medicines you are taking, as some medicines and supplements may lead to severe bleeding during the surgery. You need to stick to your physician’s instructions about drinks, foods, supplements and drugs to avoid any possible complications that may result from the procedure.

What Happens During ACL Reconstruction?

Since ACL reconstruction is a painful procedure, the surgeon will help block the pain by administering either general or regional anesthesia, depending on the severity of your injury. Once the anesthetic takes effect, the surgeon makes an incision in your knee and inserts a tiny camera known as an arthroscope into the damaged knee through the incision. There is a connection that runs from the camera to a video monitor from which the surgeon observes the inside of your knee to locate the damaged ligaments and other knee tissues.

Once the damage has been located and assessed, the surgeon makes other incisions through which he inserts other medical equipment into your knee. The replacement of the damage anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) involves the following steps:

  • Removal of the torn ligament using a suitable instrument such as a shaver.
  • Graft harvesting. This can be an autograft or allograft.
  • The surgeon drills tunnels in the knee bone. The tunnels act as the avenue through which the harvested tissue is inserted or placed in the place of the injured ACL.
  • The surgeon uses appropriate devices such as screws to secure the new ACL to your bone. The tunnels will fill in gradually during the healing process.
  • The surgeon closes the incisions with stitches and dresses the wounds to prevent exposure to infection.

What Happens During Recovery And Rehabilitation?

After Recovering From Anesthesia

After recovery from anesthesia, your physician may allow you to go home. You may need to practice how to use crutches since they may be necessary during the first few weeks of healing. Your physician may also instruct you to wear a splint or knee brace.

Self-Care Practices

While at home, the following self-care practices may be necessary to speed up the healing process:

  • Knee icing and compression.
  • Resting.
  • Elevating your knee on a pillow while lying down.
  • Physical therapy to regain normal motion range and strength.

Conclusion

Generally, persons who undergo ACL reconstruction regain their normal state and live a normal lifestyle. Your efforts to regain full knee motion range should begin just a couple of weeks following surgery. Depending on the type of work you do, a full return to your daily activities may take four to six weeks. Most athletes are able to return to competitive sports within 6 months, depending on the sport. Always consult with and follow the advice of your doctor if you are considering this treatment.

Orthopedic Specialists

Jeffrey Hessing, MD and Timothy Doerr, MD have a passion for helping others. They have a combined 50 years of orthopedic excellence dedicated to the people of the Boise area. All of our surgeons are board certified by the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery.

Dr. Doerr

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