ACL Surgery is a treatment option when the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) is torn when the knee is pulled or twisted in an unnatural way. Injuries to the ACL are especially common in sports where side-to-side or pivoting movement of the knee is required; soccer, basketball, skiing, and football are frequent culprits. An injured ACL is associated with the following symptoms:
- An audible pop or snapping upon injury
- Immediate and sustained swelling in the knee
- Instability in the knee that can cause it to give out
- Inability to bear weight
- Significant pain that does not diminish in the hours following the injury
- A feeling of fullness in the knee
Elderly, less active patients may not require surgery following an ACL injury—if the overall stability of the knee is healthy and the patient has a low activity level, the physician may recommend non-surgical options. For young athletes, however, surgery is usually needed. The torn ligament must be replaced with a tissue graft, which will then form the base for the new ligament to grow on. Watch a video about sports related ACL surgery and injuries.
Many techniques are used to perform ACL reconstruction. Most are performed arthroscopically (a minimally invasive approach) through small puncture holes. A graft is placed in the location of your torn ligament and held in place by a fixation device such as a screw. This allows for early motion and rehab while the graft matures to a new functioning ACL. This knee surgery can be performed in about an hour, and patients go home the same day.
Regrowth of the ACL graft can take a long time.. Physical therapy following the knee surgery will center on first returning motion to the joint and surrounding muscles before building strength to protect the new ligament.