What is ACL reconstruction?

ACL reconstruction is a surgical procedure performed to replace a torn or damaged anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in your knee. ACL injuries are commonly seen in people who play sports like soccer, football, basketball and gymnastics and after accidents. The ACL is a tissue found inside your knee. Its function involves knee flexion and extension and is vital for maintaining knee joint stability. This ligament can tear when the knee is moved suddenly while jumping or running. A ruptured ACL can make the knee unstable and the joint becomes more damaged over time, which is why it has to be replaced as soon as possible.

When is ACL reconstruction necessary?

People who lead a relatively inactive lifestyle with moderate exercise or recreational activities and have an ACL injury can treat their condition with a course of physical therapy. Surgical ACL reconstruction is recommended if:

  • The patient is an athlete and wants to continue in their sport
  • The knee injury has caused damage to the meniscus or more than one ligament
  • The knee tends to buckle during basic everyday activities
  • The patient is young and less than 30 years of age

Non-surgical treatments are recommended for people over the age of 45 and have no additional intra-articular injury. Treatment methods should be properly discussed with a medical expert.

What happens during ACL reconstruction surgery?

Before the procedure, the patient will be given regional or general anaesthesia to make them comfortable. ACL reconstruction is typically done with small incisions which allow a thin tube containing a video camera known as an arthroscope to be inserted into the joint space. The damaged ligament is removed and replaced with a segment of tendon that is extracted from another part of the patient’s knee or from a donor. Tunnels or sockets are drilled into the shinbone and thighbone to create the perfect position for the graft. After the graft is in place, it is secured to the bones with screws / buttons etc.

The patient may have to use crutches or wear a knee brace until recovery is complete. Progressive physical therapy is recommended after recovery to strengthen muscles and regain full movement of the knee. It is advised to follow rehabilitation plans completely to ensure proper healing and achieving best outcomes from the ACL reconstruction procedure.

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