ACL Repair Surgery

This article will discuss everything you need to know about this ACL repair surgery, from treating ACL tears to understanding what an ACL tear is to the surgery process, recovery timeline, and post-operative care.

We’ll break down the surgery itself, explaining how surgeons repair or reconstruct the torn ligament using techniques like patellar tendon grafts. Additionally, we’ll discuss who might be a candidate for ACL repair surgery and what to expect during the recovery period, including the crucial role of physical therapy.

Whether you’re considering ACL repair surgery for yourself or seeking information for a loved one, this article aims to provide clear and concise insights into the procedure and its associated care. If you’re in the Granville or Coshocton, Ohio, area and looking for expert orthopedic care, consider reaching out to Orthopedic Specialists & Sports Medicine, where our experienced team is dedicated to helping you get back on your feet.

What is an ACL Tear?

An ACL tear happens when the anterior cruciate ligament—a strong band of tissue in the knee joint—gets damaged or torn. This ligament plays a crucial role in stabilizing the knee during movements like running, jumping, and changing direction.

When someone suffers a torn ACL, it often occurs during sports or activities that involve sudden stops or changes in direction. Symptoms of a torn ACL include severe pain, swelling, and instability in the knee. Sometimes, people even hear or feel a popping sensation at the time of injury.

What is an ACL Repair Surgery?

ACL repair surgery (also known as ACL reconstruction surgery) is a procedure performed to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in the knee. The ACL is a critical ligament that helps stabilize the knee joint during movement. When it’s torn, it can cause pain, swelling, and instability.

A surgeon checking a patient’s scar after his ACL repair surgery.

Who is a Candidate for ACL Surgery?

Candidates for ACL repair surgery are typically individuals who have experienced significant ACL tears or ACL injuries. These injuries often occur during sports activities or accidents that involve sudden twists, pivots, or direct impacts on the knee.

People who experience symptoms such as severe pain, swelling, and instability in the knee joint may be considered candidates for surgery. Additionally, if conservative treatments like rest, physical therapy, and bracing have not provided sufficient relief or stability, surgery may be recommended.

Candidates for ACL repair surgery should also be in good overall health and able to tolerate anesthesia and surgical procedures. It’s essential for candidates to discuss their specific circumstances with a qualified orthopedic surgeon to determine the most appropriate treatment plan for their ACL injury.

What Happens During an ACL Surgery?

During an ACL repair surgery, the surgeon first makes small incisions around the knee to access the torn ligament. Then, they remove the damaged ACL tissue.

Next, the surgeon prepares the knee for ACL reconstruction. One common method involves using a tissue graft to replace the torn ligament. A popular choice for this graft is the patellar tendon, which connects the kneecap to the shinbone.

To obtain the patellar tendon graft, the surgeon makes a small incision over the front of the knee and takes a piece of the tendon along with a small portion of bone from the kneecap and the shinbone. This piece of tissue is then prepared to serve as the new ACL.

The surgeon then drills small tunnels into the thigh bone and shinbone, where the graft will be anchored. The graft is threaded through these tunnels and secured in place with screws or other fixation devices.

Over time, the body’s natural healing processes allow the graft to integrate into the knee joint, providing stability and support similar to the original ACL.

How Long Does it Take to Recover from an ACL Surgery?

Recovery from ACL repair surgery can vary depending on individual factors like overall health, the extent of the injury, and adherence to post-operative care. Generally, it takes about 6 to 9 months to fully recover from ACL repair surgery.

During the initial phase of recovery, patients typically use crutches to keep weight off the repaired knee and may wear a knee brace for support. Physical therapy starts soon after surgery to regain strength, flexibility, and range of motion in the knee. The physical therapist will guide patients through exercises to improve muscle control and stability, gradually increasing intensity as healing progresses.

Post-operative care commonly involves:

  • Pain Management: Patients are prescribed pain medication to manage discomfort during the early stages of recovery.
  • Bracing and Immobilization: A knee brace may be worn to provide stability and support during activities. In some cases, a hinged brace allows controlled movement.
  • Physical Therapy: Regular physical therapy sessions are crucial for restoring knee function and preventing stiffness. Therapists work with patients to strengthen muscles, improve flexibility, and enhance balance and coordination.
  • Activity Modification: Patients are advised to avoid high-impact activities and sports during the initial phases of recovery. Gradual return to activities is typically guided by the surgeon and physical therapist.
  • Follow-up Appointments: Regular follow-up appointments with the surgeon are essential to monitor progress, address any concerns, and adjust the treatment plan as needed.

By following the post-operative care plan and adhering to the guidance of healthcare professionals, individuals can optimize their recovery and return to their normal activities with a healed and stable knee.

Schedule an Appointment with Us Today!

ACL repair surgery is a significant step towards regaining function and stability in the knee joint after experiencing an ACL tear. If you or someone you know is dealing with an ACL injury, don’t hesitate to seek expert care. 

Orthopedic Specialists & Sports Medicine offers specialized orthopedic and sports medicine services in Granville and Coshocton, OH. Our team of skilled professionals is committed to providing personalized care and guiding you through every step of your journey toward recovery.

Schedule an appointment today and take the first step towards getting back to the activities you love, pain-free and with confidence!

Medically reviewed by
Brad L. Bernacki, MD