It is not uncommon for athletes to experience ACL injuries that require surgery to repair. We know that you will have questions when it comes time to speak with a surgeon, so here is some information to help you make an informed decision about your care.
Your anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) allows you to run and walk successfully by stabilizing the motions of your knee joint. This means that dancers, gymnasts, cyclists, and other athletes like football and basketball players who stress this joint the most are often at risk of injuring their ACL. When this important knee ligament becomes strained or torn, an ACL repair surgery can fix the damage and help you return to your favorite activities.
What Is the Goal of ACL Repair Surgery?
ACL surgery is a proven treatment for patients who suffer from knee pain or knee joints that “give way” or feel unstable after an injury. If your ACL is torn, it will not heal successfully without surgery. To restore your stability, the ligament cannot simply be stitched back together; it has to be reconstructed using a tissue graft that will help the new ligament to grow and repair itself.
Do I Need ACL Surgery?
Early surgical intervention with an ACL injury can result in bone growth problems in children and damaging scar tissue in adults. This is why those with partial ACL tears are often encouraged to undergo extensive physical therapy to restore their knee function and learn ways to prevent future injuries. However, half of all ACL injuries are called combined injuries, meaning they also result in damage to the meniscus, cartilage, or other ligaments. If you experience this type of damage and are actively involved in sports, you will need an ACL repair surgery to avoid secondary damage to your knee.
How Do I Prepare for the Surgery?
During the two weeks leading up to your surgery, you may be asked to stop taking certain medications. This is particularly true with blood thinners and drugs that reduce clotting such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen. Be sure to tell your orthopedic surgeon about any and all drugs that you are currently taking during your surgical consultation. Your doctor should also know about any cases of fever, cold, flu or other illnesses that may affect your procedure. Typically, you will be required to avoid eating or drinking anything for six to twelve hours before surgery.
What Can I Expect on the Day of My Surgery?
Be sure to arrive at the hospital on time so you can begin the necessary pre-operative procedures. A nurse will bring you to the pre-op area, where you will change into a hospital gown and be taken to your assigned bed. To deliver the fluids and medications that you will need during and after the surgery, an IV will be put into your arm or your hand.
After a nurse reviews your health history, you will meet with an anesthesiologist to discuss your anesthesia options. Most patients choose a general anesthetic that puts them entirely to sleep. Your orthopedic surgeon will then recheck your surgical consent, identify the operative site, and answer any last-minute questions that you might have.
How Will My ACL Be Repaired?
Using grafts and knee arthroscopy, your torn ACL will be replaced within the joint itself. The tissue graft can be taken from another part of your leg, called an autograft, or donated by another patient, called an allograft. Your damaged ACL will be removed and the graft will be installed in its place using the technique preferred by your surgeon. By using an arthroscope, your surgery can be minimally invasive to encourage smaller incisions and shorter recovery times.
How Long Is the Recovery Process?
Barring complications, most patients can safely return home the day after their surgery. You may be required to wear a knee brace and use crutches for one to four weeks, but you will begin doing exercises to move the operated area immediately after surgery in order to reduce stiffness and scarring.
Physical therapy in the months following your surgery are key to regaining motion and strength. Most doctors recommend between four and six months of physical therapy before returning to any strenuous activity or sport. But how soon you can return to work or play will depend entirely on the success of your individual recovery process.
Do you still have questions? If you are suffering from a knee injury or instability, contact Arkansas Surgical Hospital to find out if you are a good candidate for ACL repair surgery at 501-901-0307.