The ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) is one of the major stabilizing ligaments in the knee. It is a strong rope like structure located in the center of the knee running from the femur to the tibia. When this ligament tears, unfortunately, it doesn’t heal and often leads to the feeling of instability in the knee.
ACL Reconstruction Surgery
ACL reconstruction is performed under general anesthesia in most instances. The surgical repair is performed through small incisions. A small tube with a camera on the end is inserted through one incision and tiny surgical instruments are inserted through the others. During the procedure, the damaged ligament is replaced with graft tissue that may come from another part of the body or a tissue bank. This graft is secured on one end to the shinbone and on the other end to the thighbone. Over time, new ligament tissue will grow along the graft, improving joint stability and function.
A successful reconstruction of the ACL includes follow-up that involves rigorous rehabilitation (physical therapy). In combination, ACL surgery and rehab are expected to improve comfort and range of motion in the injured knee within a few weeks. The function of the knee continues to improve for up to one year, after which full activity may be resumed, even for athletes.
How to Know if You Need ACL Surgery
If you have suffered a known injury to your knee after a sharp turn or twist, and the symptoms of your injury have not improved with conservative therapies, you may need ACL surgery to restore proper movement to the knee joint. Signs of an ACL tear include a popping sound, knee stiffness that limits range of motion, pain, and a sensation of the knee “giving out” when weight-bearing. The best way to determine if surgery would serve your immediate and long-term needs is to consult with Dr. Adickes. He has an extensive knowledge of knee injuries and the variety of treatment options available for them.
Recovery from ACL Surgery
Recovery is gradual after ACL surgery. For the first two weeks, physical activity may focus primarily on performing prescribed exercises to support circulation through the joint and rehabilitation of muscles and tendons around it. From week two to week four, a brace may be worn to facilitate weight-bearing movements. A physical therapy program may begin four to eight weeks after surgery an continue for several weeks. Full recovery from ACL surgery can take up to six months.