ACL knee surgery is often necessary when the ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) is overstretched so much that it tears. This usually happens when the knee is excessively twisted or pushed too far backwards.
With a torn ACL the knee can often feel unstable and may give way.
The ACL can be repaired if it is partially torn, or if the ligament has completely ruptured, an ACL reconstruction may be necessary.
Here we will look at why the ACL is so important, how to decide whether you need surgery, the types of ACL knee surgery that are done and what the alternatives are to surgery. To find out more about how the ACL gets damaged, visit the ACL injuries section.
The Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) is one of 4 ligaments in the knee. It runs from the lower back edge of the thigh bone (femur) to the top front edge of the shin bone (tibia). Its job is to provide stability of the knee by stopping the shin from sliding too far forwards or twisting too much.
ACL knee surgery is indicated if the knee keeps giving way/buckling. Any time this happens, there is a risk of damage to the other structures in the knee, particularly the cartilage and meniscus. It is important to avoid repeated giving way of the knee as if the meniscus tears, there is less protection for the knee bones and increased risk of developing arthritis.
ACL surgery aims to restore functional stability of the knee while retaining full range of movement. It is therefore indicated in individuals who:
1) Want to return to pivoting type sports eg football, skiing, tennis, rugby, boxing or hockey
2) Have problems with instability with their knee giving way during their everyday activities
Many people function perfectly well after
without surgery. Exercise rehabilitation for a partially or completely
torn ACL looks to build up the strength of the knee muscles so that they
provide enough support and stability for the knee to compensate for the
torn ACL. It also helps train the muscles and other ligaments to
provide proprioceptive feedback to gain more stability. Using an ACL knee brace can also really help provide stability and protection.
It usually takes a few months of rehab to fully recover from a torn ACL. Wearing an ACL knee brace can help to provide support and stop the knee from giving way.
There are 2 types of ACL knee surgery carried out to repair tears.
1) ACL Reconstruction: If more than 50% of the ligament has torn, or if the knee keeps giving way, then a reconstruction is advisable. This is the more common of the two.
2) ACL Repair: If the ACL has only partly torn (with more than 50% of the ligament still intact), then the ligament can sometimes be sewn back together. If the ACL has detached from the bone (avulsion) then it can be reattached. Both operations are followed by months of rehabilitation to regain full strength and stability in the knee.
Whilst lots of people manage to function perfectly well without an ACL, other people don't. To find out more about what situations usually indicate the need for ACL knee surgery visit the ACL Reconstruction section.
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Updated 30th April 2013
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