ACL reconstruction

What is the anterior cruciate ligament?

The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is located in your knee joint and offers stability (see diagram opposite). Tearing or rupturing of this important ligament can cause your knee to ‘give way’ or collapse when you make turning or twisting movements.

What causes an ACL rupture?

A twisting injury to the knee can result in an ACL rupture and is commonly associated with football and skiing injuries. Tearing of a cartilage or damaging the surface of the joints can also occur at the same time.

Why have this surgery?

A successful ACL reconstruction can result in your knee not collapsing anymore. It should also allow you to resume some of your sporting activities and therefore ensure you are more active.

What are the alternatives to surgery?

Exercises to strengthen and improve the co-ordination of your thigh muscles can be provided by your physiotherapist and wearing a knee brace can offer support during sporting activities.

What exactly does the operation involve?

The operation lasts between an hour and an hour and a half with various anaesthetic techniques available.

The surgery involves one or more cuts around your knee. Keyhole surgery, otherwise known as arthroscopy, may be used by your surgeon to see inside the knee using a camera.

Using a suitable section of tissue from another part of your body, your surgeon will replace the ruptured ACL. They will secure it in place by attaching its ends to the bone via drilled holes and anchors or special screws.

How quick is recovery?

In most cases, you should be allowed to go home either the same day or the day after.  The surgeon may advise that you wear a knee brace for a few weeks following the operation.

When your knee has settled down, a course of intensive physiotherapy treatments will begin that could last for as long as six months.  Regular exercise is advisable to aid your quick return to normal activities but do ask your GP or healthcare professional for advice before beginning exercise.

It is common for the knee not to be as strong as it was before the original injury occurred.

Summary of an ACL reconstruction

An ACL reconstruction can improve stability to the knee if it constantly collapses following an ACL rupture. It can improve its daily performance, as well as allow participation in sporting activities that may not be achievable without it.

Acknowledgements: EIDO Healthcare Limited

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