The ACL, also known as the anterior cruciate ligament, is a ligament in the knee that connects the bones of the knee together. The ACL can become torn for a variety of reasons, but most people experience this kind of injury when they participate in sports like basketball, volleyball, and soccer.
When the ACL becomes torn, the ligament must often be removed and replaced. This outpatient surgery is performed by a professional who specializes in this type of surgery – called an orthopedic surgeon.
If you’ve recently torn your ACL and need to have it repaired, then it’s helpful to know what to expect from your upcoming knee ligaments repair surgery. The more you know about your coming surgery, the easier it will be for you to get through the recovery process.
Why Is Knee Ligament Repair Surgery Necessary?
ACL injuries generally only happen under certain circumstances. Injuries can occur when you land badly from a jump, slow down and change direction quickly, stop suddenly, or just receive a blow to the knee.
The ACL stabilizes the knee joint and helps connect various bones of the leg to each other. Repair surgery isn’t always necessary – it’s usually only a necessity if the injury is severe, if you’re an athlete that wants to continue playing your sport, or your knee occasionally gives out during normal, everyday activities.
For some people, physical therapy can treat an ACL injury without surgery. Your physician can tell you whether surgery is necessary or if the injury can be managed through physical therapy.
Before the surgery takes place, most patients have to go through weeks of physical therapy to reduce swelling and restore range of motion in the knee. If your knee is stiff or swollen when surgery takes place, you may not recover a full range of motion after you’ve healed.
Your doctor may ask you about any medications you’re taking before your surgery takes place. If you’re taking medications that thin your blood, you’ll be asked to stop taking those medications in the weeks before the surgery.
Your physician may instruct you not to eat food the night before your surgery. Follow your doctor’s instructions to help ensure the best possible outcome for your procedure.
Day of the Surgery
ACL repair surgery is an outpatient procedure. When the surgery is over, you’ll be able to go home. You’ll need someone to drive you, so make arrangements to get a ride home from the outpatient facility.
You’ll be unconscious while the surgery takes place. The surgery will be performed through a couple of small incisions. During the surgery, your orthopedic surgeon will remove the damaged tissue, then your surgeon will replace the tissue with a replacement tissue called a graft. The graft is a piece of tissue that comes from another part of your body or from a donor.
The surgeon will also drill holes into your thigh and shin to secure the graft. Once the graft is in place, more ligament tissue can grow on the graft.
What to Expect When Surgery Is Over
Following the surgery, your physician will have you practice walking with crutches before you’ll be allowed to go home. You may be asked to wear a splint or a knee brace to protect the graft.
Your surgeon will also give you instructions about how to control swelling and pain following your surgery. Most patients are told to keep their legs up and apply ice or a cold wrap to their knee. Your surgeon will also likely give you instructions to stay off your knee as much as possible for a specific period.
Your doctor will also likely prescribe medication for your pain. There are a variety of over-the-counter medications that your doctor is likely to prescribe. If your doctor prescribes a stronger medication, this should be taken sparingly, as some strong pain medications can risk addiction.
Your physician will give you instructions about how to bear weight on your knee and how to manage basic tasks like bathing and showering. It’s very important to seek progressive physical therapy after your surgery, to help ensure that your knee gains flexibility after the surgery is over.
You’ll be assigned to meet with a physical therapist, who will teach you how to perform a variety of exercises. These exercises will help you regain mobility and range of motion in your knee, so it’s important to continue the exercises for as long as the physical therapist says.
A Few Weeks After Surgery
In the first few weeks after surgery, you should be able to move your knee with the range of motion that you’re able to achieve with your other knee. Full recovery takes much longer. During that time, you’ll stay in touch with your doctor, provide updates and follow your doctor’s instructions. If you’re an athlete, it may be a full year before you’re able to return to playing sports.
Do You Need Knee Ligaments Repair Surgery? Contact Your Orthopedic Surgeon Today
ACL repair surgery can help improve your quality of life after an injury to your knee. At Full Circle Orthopedics, we can help make this happen! Call us today to discuss your options for knee surgery. We’ll be happy to schedule an appointment and answer your questions.