What does surgery for an ACL tear entail?


Quick Answer

The surgeon does not repair the ACL during surgery, but rather replaces it with a tendon graft from another part of the body, such as the hamstrings or quadriceps, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. The recovery time varies depending on the type of graft used.

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Full Answer

Before surgery, the patient attends physical therapy to get the knee in the best possible shape and to improve the results after surgery, explains the AAOS. A stiff knee at the time of surgery can result in a poor post-surgery outcome.

During surgery, the surgeon confirms that the patient tore the ACL, notes the AAOS. The doctor prepares the graft and makes it the correct size. She inserts an arthroscope into the knee through a small incision and removes the torn ACL. She then inserts the new tendon and ensures that it has the correct amount of tension and is attached firmly. The surgery is usually outpatient surgery.

Recovery includes rest, ice and physical therapy, says the AAOS. Much of the surgery's success depends on the subsequent physical therapy. Patients can return to sports and regular activities after they recover full range of motion and the knee is no longer sore. Surgeons advise young patients to wait until they finish growing before having the procedure.

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