The anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, attaches to your knee and connects your femur to your tibia. This ligament also helps to stabilize your knee joint when you are doing physical activities that cause you to jump, twist, or incur strong forces. An injury to your ACL can happen when you suddenly slow down and change your direction of movement.
- The ligament may also tear when you suddenly stop, pivot with one foot in place, or receive a blow to the knee
- A moderate tear or complete rupture of the ACL requires reconstruction of the ligament
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How ACL Reconstruction Works
ACL reconstruction is an outpatient procedure, so you will be able to go home on the same day. In this procedure, you will receive general anesthesia and be sedated during the surgery. The orthopedic surgeon makes several small incisions, one of which will accept a small video camera attached to a tube. This arthroscope is used to visualize the space within your joint. The doctor will use surgical instruments with long handles to operate through the other small incisions.
To reconstruct your ACL, the surgeon removes the damaged ligament and replaces it with a length of tendon. The tendon may come from your own knee or from a donor. The tendon will be anchored to your femur and tibia with screws or titanium plates. This tendon will serve as a sort of scaffolding for your body to grow a new ACL. After your body has healed from ACL reconstruction, you will begin a course of physical therapy. The therapy will help you to regain strength and range of motion.
What Conditions ACL Reconstruction Is Used For
ACL reconstruction is used for partial and complete tears of the ligament. If your ligament has been damaged due to another condition, an ACL reconstruction may be done to prevent a complete tear. If you are having a knee replacement and there are signs of ACL damage, the orthopedic surgeon may go ahead and do ACL reconstruction at the same time as the knee replacement. If you have other knee problems, such as damaged or depleted cartilage, ACL reconstruction may be performed in order to stabilize your joint.
Who Is a Candidate for ACL Reconstruction?
If you are an athlete and need to return to your peak level of performance as quickly as possible, ACL reconstruction is the leading method to get you there. Patients who are young and physically active may have an ACL reconstruction rather than other therapies to care for a damaged ligament. This is because repeated injuries to the ligament often lead to a total rupture.
You may also be a candidate for an ACL reconstruction if the cartilage of your knee has worn away or if you have several other ligaments in your knee that are injured or damaged. You could be a candidate for ACL reconstruction if your knee is unstable even with light activity and if you are unable to participate in light to moderate intensity activities.