Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) repair is done to reconstruct the ACL in the knee after it is torn. Often, a graft made of tendon is used to reconstruct the torn ligament.
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ACL surgery is an elective procedure. This means that surgery is not always necessary; it may depend on your lifestyle and age.
Surgery may be recommended if you have:
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
Before your procedure, talk to your doctor about ways to manage factors that may increase your risk of complications such as:
Your doctor may do the following:
Before surgery, you will need to:
You may need to stop taking some medications up to 1 week before the surgery. Talk to your doctor about any medications that may need to be stopped.
Do not eat or drink anything after midnight the day before your surgery, unless told otherwise by your doctor.
Anesthesia will block pain and keep you comfortable during the procedure. Anesthesia methods include:
IVs will be placed in your arm or hands for medications and fluids. The range of motion of your knee will be examined to confirm the ACL tear. Next, another tendon in your knee or hamstring will be located (called autograft) to reconstruct the torn ligament. Sometimes a donor graft (called allograft) is used. The graft tendon will be formed to the correct size.
1 or 2 small keyhole incisions will be made on the top of the knee. An arthroscope (or endoscope) and tiny tools will be inserted into the knee joint. The torn ACL is removed and other damage to the knee is trimmed or repaired. In order to reconstruct the tendon, holes will be drilled through bone structures in the thigh and shin. The new graft will be placed through these holes. Needles may be threaded through the holes to suture the new tendon into place. Other devices, such as screws, washers, or staples are also used to hold the graft in place.
Once the graft is securely in place, the knee’s range of motion will be tested. Other tests will be done as well. The skin will be closed with stitches. Bandages and/or a brace will be placed on the knee.
About 2 hours.
Anesthesia will block pain during the procedure. You will have pain after the procedure. Ask your doctor about medication to help manage pain.
This procedure is done in a hospital setting. You can usually go home the same day. If you have complications, you may need to stay longer.
After the procedure, the hospital staff may provide the following care:
During your stay, the hospital staff will take steps to reduce your chance of infection such as:
There are also steps you can take to reduce your chances of infection such as:
When you return home, take these steps:
Contact your doctor if your recovery is not progressing as expected or you develop complications such as:
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
OrthoInfo—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
ACL Injury: Does It Require Surgery? American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00297. Updated September 2009. Accessed February 11, 2016.
Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated August 18, 2015. Accessed February 11, 2016.
Anterior cruciate ligament injuries. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00549. Updated March 2014. Accessed February 11, 2016.
Anterior cruciate ligament injuries: treatment and rehabilitation. Encyclopedia of Sports Medicine and Science website. Available at: http://sportsci.org/encyc/aclinj/aclinj.html. Accessed February 11, 2016.
Knee ligament repair. John Hopkins Medicine website. Available at. http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/test_procedures/orthopaedic/knee_ligament_repair_92,P07675/. Accessed February 11, 2016.
6/6/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Mills E, Eyawo O, Lockhart I, Kelly S, Wu P, Ebbert JO. Smoking cessation reduces postoperative complications: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Med. 2011;124(2):144-154.e8.
Last reviewed March 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Warren A. Bodine, DO, CAQSM Last Updated: 1/27/2014