The ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) is an important ligament that provides stability tothe knee. ACL injuries are among the most commonly occurring sports injuries. Suddenmovements where a player changes direction quickly - such as basketball, soccer, andfootball, play a crucial part in ACL injuries. A loud "popping" sound or sensation in theknee, severe pain, rapid swelling, and a feeling of knee instability are common signs andsymptoms of a torn ACL. An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) test is necessary to seethe knee's connective tissues and diagnose an ACL tear. This gives your doctor a greatlook at the soft tissue of the knee.
ACL reconstruction may be recommended if:
- More than one ligament or the meniscus in your knee is injured.
- The injury to your ACL is causing your knee to buckle during everyday activities.
- You're young and an athlete who wants to continue your sport, especially if itinvolves jumping, cutting, or pivoting.
Several weeks of physical therapy is sometimes prescribed before surgery. Physicaltherapy can reduce swelling and pain while restoring your knee's full range of motionand strengthen muscles. It is important to go into surgery without a swollen stiff kneeso that you may regain your full range of motion after surgery.
During surgery, your doctor will make three incisions in the knee to insert the cameraand tools and flush the joint with fluid. They'll then cut away the damaged tissue or thewhole ACL if you're having a total reconstruction. Your doctor will then remove yourdamaged ligament during your procedure and replace it with a segment of the tendon.Replacement tissue is called a graft. It will come from another part of your knee or atendon from a deceased donor.
If you are undergoing a total reconstruction, your doctor will make attachment sites forthe new tissue by drilling a hole into your tibia and a hole into your femur. The doctorwill attach the tissue by inserting the ends into the drill sites and securing it withscrews. Then it's time to close and dress the wounds. After your surgery is complete,you'll spend some time recovering from anesthesia. A post-op nurse monitors you andmanages your pain. Once you recover from the anesthesia, you can go home later thatsame day. Before you go home, you'll practice walking with crutches, and your surgeonmay ask you to wear a knee brace or splint to help protect the graft.
The recovery period will vary from patient to patient. Once the doctor gives you thegreen light, you will begin physical therapy. This can last up to a year, but many patientscomplete physical therapy within 6 months post-op. Successful ACL reconstructionpaired with focused rehabilitation can usually restore stability and function to yourknee within 9 months of your ACL surgery.
Dr. Ramesh Chandra has been practicing orthopedic surgery in the Washington DCMetropolitan area since 1984. The Center for Orthopedics and Sports Medicine is easilyaccessed from anywhere in the Washington DC metropolitan area, with offices located inFalls Church, Reston/Herndon, and Tysons Corner. Please call 703 848-0800 or click hereto request an appointment online for all appointments and inquiries.