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ACL Surgery - Making a Decision

Learn the Pros and Cons of Having ACL Reconstruction Surgery

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Updated August 21, 2014

acl surgery options

Surgery may be the best option for some patients who have an ACL tear.

Photo © www.iStockPhoto.com sports acl surgery

Some sports may require athletes to undergo ACL reconstruction surgery.

Photo © Irina Igumnova

The ACL is one of four primary ligaments that provides stability to the knee joint.  If the ligament is completely torn, it will not heal. Some individuals elect to leave the knee without a functioning ACL, and some choose ACL surgery to replace the torn ligament.

Left untreated, a knee with a torn ACL may have symptoms of knee instability.  This is usually a sensation of buckling, or the knee giving-out.  For some people, this may not be bothersome, but for others it may interfere with their activities.  Determining if you should have ACL reconstruction surgery depends on a number of factors.

Do I Need ACL Surgery?

Pros

Cons

  • Surgery is not 100% effective -- some people don't fully recover
  • Many activities can be performed without a normal ACL
  • There are complications and risks of surgery

Recommendations

ACL reconstruction surgery should be considered for all individuals who desire a return to sports or activities that require lateral pivoting of the knee, or those who experience recurrent instability of the knee.  ACL surgery is a good option for:

  • Most people expecting to return to high-level athletic activities in sports such as soccer or basketball
  • Individuals who experience recurrent episodes of knee instability due to ACL insufficiency
  • Patients who do not want to attempt conservative therapy

ACL Reconstruction Surgery

ACL reconstruction surgery is performed to create a new ligament to take the place of the torn ACL.  There are a number of considerations for those who are interested in ACL surgery including the specific surgical technique, the timing of surgery, and the type of graft to use.

The surgical procedure is usually an outpatient procedure.  Patients are given crutches to use, most often for a few weeks after surgery.  Rehab after an ACL tear can take several months, and most doctors limit patients recovering from ACL reconstruction for 7-9 months after the time of surgery.

 

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