What is an ACL reconstruction?
The ACL, anterior cruciate ligament, is a ligament the holds the bones of the knee together and prevents the shin bone (tibia) from sliding out in front of the thigh bone (femur). Tears of the ACL are categorized as either partial or complete. Injuries are also categorized into three grades. For grade 1 ACL sprains, the ligament remains intact, and the joint remains stabilized. Minimal stretching and microscopic tearing have also occurred at this grade. Grade 2 sprains involve the tearing and separation of ligament fibers and additional knee instability. Grade 2 sprains may require surgery depending on the degree of knee instability and the patient’s activity levels. Grade 3 sprains involve a complete tear of the ligament and often require surgery. With this grade of sprain, the ligament is completely disrupted and patients may experience symptoms of instability. Patients who participate in sports such as soccer or basketball are more likely to injure the ligament, though causes of the injury can vary. ACL reconstructions restore the ligament and knee stability by replacing the torn ligament with a tissue graft. These grafts may be obtained from several different sources, including from the patellar tendon, hamstring tendon, or quadriceps tendon. An allograft, or cadaveric graft, may also be used.
What is an ACL reconstruction procedure and recovery like?
After the injury is properly diagnosed with a physical exam, knee X-ray, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), the patient may elect to undergo ACL reconstruction surgery. The procedure is usually performed with the aid of knee arthroscopy. This allows for the use of a small camera and miniature tools to help complete the reconstruction. The surgeon will reconstruct the ACL ligament by removing torn parts of the ligament and repairing it using a tissue graft. Tunnels will be made in the bones and the new tissue will be brought through, replacing the damaged tissue. The doctor will then attach the graft to the bone using screws or other devices. As the knee heals, the bone tunnels will fill in and hold the new ligament in place. The incisions will be closed and the area will be covered with a dressing. Physical therapy is a vital aspect of recovery from an ACL injury. The patient should attend any follow up appointments with their doctor and complete the recommended amount of physical therapy in order to regain optimal mobility.
Do you have an injury that could benefit from this surgical technique? Contact the specialists at Mobility Bone & Joint Institute to learn more about treatment options.