The anterior cruciate ligament is a small band of connective tissue that lies deep within the knee. It holds the tibia, a lower bone of the leg, to the knee joint. This ligament can become damaged and cause pain, weakness and ‘giving out’ of the knee. ACL reconstruction is a procedure that replaces the damaged tissue to allow greater strength, flexibility and relief from pain.
When Is Surgery Needed?
Reconstruction is indicated when there is an injury to the knee that causes pain or weakness that impacts the function or stability of the joint. Frequently, a number of tissue injuries within the knee joint are present. Surgery may not be required if the individual is not athletic, but those who engage in sports or have an active lifestyle may need surgery to stabilize the knee joint.
ACL Reconstruction Procedure
The surgical procedure for reconstruction involves removing the damage ACL ligament other injured tissue in the area. The ligament is then replaced with tissue from the patient’s own body, called an autograph, or with tissues from a donor, called an allograph. Screws or other devices are used to hold the new ligament to the bone. The surgical site is then sutured together and covered with a bandage.
Rehabilitation After Surgery
The ACL reconstruction protocol includes physical therapy to strengthen the muscles surrounding the knee and to improve flexibility. Surgery involving donor tissues generally takes a longer period of time than tissue from the patient’s own body. Supervised physical therapy is indicated for 3 to 9 months. The length of rehabilitation depends on other structures that may have been repaired at the same time as the ACL reconstruction. Therapy generally includes:
· Protecting the graft area
· Reducing inflammation
· Minimizing the negative effects of immobilization
· Educating the patient on the care of the reconstruction during healing
· Achieving flexion in the knee to 90 degrees
· If available, the use of a pool to help normalize gait mechanics
Recovering From ACL Reconstruction Surgery
ACL reconstruction recovery time may take up to a full year. Recovery progresses through a number of stages:
· One to two weeks of wound healing, during which pain, stiffness and swelling may be present
· Week 3 to 24, during which rehabilitation is done to increase function for normal activities
· After six months, many patients return to their athletic activities, but others may require a longer period to feel confident about the knee’s strength.
ACL injuries are a common problem in individuals who are physically active and can seriously impact function and performance. Reconstruction surgery can restore both strength and stability to the injured knee.Read More