ACL Reconstruction

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ACL Reconstruction as an Anterior Cruciate Ligament Treatment

The ACL is the most commonly torn ligament in the knee. The anterior cruciate ligament is in the front of the knee joint (anterior) and crosses (cruciate) in front of the PCL. Along with the other major restraints including the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), medial collateral ligament (MCL), and posterior lateral complex (PLC), the knee joint is effectively stabilized during movement. The ACL also contributes to providing stability of the knee with rotational movements or twisting.  In many cases, the ACL is injured during athletic participation, but may also happen with certain other traumatic injury patterns to the knee. An anterior cruciate ligament treatment, typically an ACL reconstruction, is required in the majority of patients to return knee stability and function following an injury. Dr. Jeff Padalecki, knee surgeon, specializes in ACL surgery in patients living in the greater Austin, Texas communities.

At the time of an ACL injury to the knee some patients report hearing a pop, and will notice that their knee will begin to swell and have pain. In most cases, due to the nature of injury, the ACL typically does not heal on its own. Certain patients can be treated with rehabilitation, but this is recommended for older patients, or those with a lower activity level. In younger, active patients surgery is usually recommended to help patients get back to their level of pre-injury activity.

If it is determined that ACL surgery will be the next step, it may also be determined that a graft will be used to reconstruct the damaged ligaments. It is necessary to reconstruct these ligaments rather than repair due to its limited ability to heal. During an ACL reconstruction surgical procedure the surgeon will look in the knee with a camera and examine the extent of injury, including whether or not there is injury to any other nearby structures. In this procedure, the torn ligament is reconstructed using a graft of a similar size to the native ACL. This graft can come from the patient (patellar tendon, hamstring tendon) or a donated ligament can by used. The decision for type of graft is made based on a discussion of the risks and benefits of each with the surgeon.

A thorough rehabilitation program will follow ACL reconstruction surgery, and it is important for patients to adhere to the prescribed protocol in order make a full recovery. After surgery patients are placed into a brace and will typically use crutches for two weeks and may use a functional type brace once they return to activities for the first year, depending on surgeon preference.  Therapy will consist of a progression of strengthening exercises, range of motion movement, mobility function, and attaining a pain-free knee.

For additional information on ACL reconstruction as an anterior cruciate ligament treatment, please contact the office of Dr. Jeff Padalecki, orthopedic knee surgeon in Austin, Texas.