ACL stands for anterior cruciate ligament and is located in the knee. An ACL injury is when this ligament becomes damaged or torn due to an accident or injury that involved sudden starts, stops, and impacts to the knee. The goal of ACL reconstruction surgery is to restore full function of the torn ligament and to allow you to return to regular activity or sports.
Before ACL reconstruction surgery, your doctor may recommend physical therapy in order to regain full range of motion in your knee. This is because patients who have stiff, swollen knees before surgery often have difficulty regaining full range of motion in the recovery period after surgery.
What to Expect During Surgery
The surgeon usually begins with a physical examination of the knee while the patient is under anesthesia. This examination verifies that the ACL is torn and also checks for looseness of other knee ligaments that may need to be repaired during surgery or addressed postoperatively.
Next, the surgeon places an arthroscope, a small fiber-optic instrument used to visually examine the condition of a joint, into the knee. The surgeon checks for any other nearby meniscus or cartilage injuries, trims and repairs as needed, and then removes the torn ACL stump. Finally, the graft ligament is placed, secured and probed by the surgeon to ensure it has good tension and stability.
Before the surgery is complete your doctor will verify that the knee has a full range of motion and perform tests to assess the stability of the ACL replacement. The patient is typically able to go home on the same day of the surgery.
After surgery, you will feel some pain. This is a natural part of the healing process. Dr. Overturf will work to reduce your pain, so that you recover from surgery as quickly as possible.
Medications are often prescribed for short-term pain relief after surgery.
Physical therapy is a crucial part of successful ACL surgery. The patient’s dedication to rigorous physical therapy will have a direct impact on their ability to heal in a shorter amount of time.
The patient may return to sports when there is no longer pain or swelling, when full knee range of motion has been achieved, and when muscle strength, endurance and functional use of the leg have been fully restored. Full recovery is typically seen in 4 to 6 months.