What Is the ACL?
The knee is a hinge joint held together by four ligaments, which are structures responsible for holding bones together and helping with joint movement and control. Of these four ligaments, the two on the sides of the knee are called the collateral ligaments, and the other two reside deep inside the knee. The ligaments deep inside the knee are called the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL). These ligaments each connect one side at the bottom of the thighbone to the other side at the top of the shinbone, which naturally crosses the two ligaments.
How Does an ACL Become Damaged?
There are many causes of ACL tears or injuries. The most common cause is when sudden pivoting or direction changes take place during athletic activity. This type of activity is common in sports such as football, soccer, volleyball, and basketball. Other common causes include automobile accidents or accidents at work.
What Is ACL Reconstruction?
ACL reconstruction is a minimally invasive surgery where the doctor will make four small incisions. Using a small camera called an arthroscope, the surgeon will remove the damaged ligament and replace it with a segment of tendon from another part of your body or a deceased donor. Your doctor will drill sockets or tunnels in your thighbone and shinbone to position the graft and secure it with screws or other devices. The graft will hold the knee bones in place as new ligament tissue grows.
After the anesthesia has worn off, you may go home the same day. Before leaving, however, you will practice walking with crutches and the doctor may require you to wear a brace to keep the graft in place.
Your doctor will provide instructions to manage pain, swelling, and proper healing. They may recommend over-the-counter pain medication, or your doctor may prescribe stronger medication. For swelling, apply a cold wrap or ice while keeping the knee elevated.
Though rest is an essential part of healing after surgery, it is important that you also have some activity. Physical therapy helps strengthen the muscles around the knee and improves flexibility to achieve the best possible outcome. Without physical therapy, you are at risk of your knee healing improperly or not operating at the level it did before the procedure.
When Should You Schedule an Appointment?
It’s important to be seen by a specialty-trained orthopedic doctor or knee surgeon for knee pain as soon as possible, especially before the problem worsens and knee surgery, such as knee replacement, becomes the only viable option.
See a knee doctor if you are experiencing any of the following signs or symptoms:
- Difficulty bending or straightening your knee
- Knee instability/knee feels like it gives out
- Limping to avoid putting weight on your knee
ACL reconstruction is offered to athletes who want to continue in their sport as well as those who have more than one injured ligament, have a torn meniscus requiring repair, experience a buckled knee during everyday activities, and are younger, depending on their activity level.
Our ACL Reconstruction Professionals
Our fellowship-trained sports medicine surgeons, Dr. Zane Hyde, Dr. Tyler Marshall, and Dr. Mark Rogers, have undergone extensive training to understand the knee and its complex structure to perform ACL reconstruction. We also offer physical therapy, and our surgeons work closely with our therapy team to provide care that is focused on you and your needs.
To schedule a consultation to discuss ACL reconstruction with one of our sports medicine experts in Birmingham or Hoover, call (205) 228-7600 today or request an appointment online.