ACL Surgery - Three Primary Options Available If You Have a Torn Anterior Cruciate Ligament

For those that have been diagnosed with a torn Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL), there may be a need for further explanation, the options may appear limited, and the future may seem bleak.

However, this experience is not uncommon as some studies estimate that 250,000 people in United States tear their ACL every year with 175,000 ACL reconstructions done each year.

This cruciate ligament is one of the main ligaments in the knee joint. It provides almost 90% of the stability to the knee joint and if it is completely torn, it won't heal and it can't be repaired.

While some refer to the necessary surgery as an ACL repair, it is more accurately called an ACL reconstruction. There are three options available in this day and age for having an ACL reconstruction:

1. Use the knee cap - Using the middle third of the patella tendon which connects the knee cap to the shin bone to create a new ligament. The new ligament, called a patella graft, is placed into the knee and is a reasonably secure graft. The main disadvantage is knee pain following the surgery which may hang around for a couple of years.

2. Use a donor - some patients now opt for donor tissue grafts. These usually use the patella tendon of a deceased donor, similar to using your own as in the first option. The problem with this is the sterilization process that kills the living cells of the graft. This means the graft takes longer to heal and is not as reliable. There is a small risk of infection, as with any donor tissue. The advantage is that this entire procedure can be done as an arthroscopic knee surgery, and there is much less pain afterwards.

3. Use the hamstring - The hamstring at the back of the thigh is quite a large and strong muscle group. Some of the hamstring tendon is cut out to create a new cruciate ligament. This is currently a very popular method of re-creating the ACL and will result in significant bruising on the thigh and a feeling of muscle tightness for a few months after surgery. However, it is widely believed that the hamstring regains its full strength within 6 months of the surgery.

The best option for ACL surgery differs from one person to another and from one doctor to another. Your orthopaedic surgeon may have a preference for one method over another, and may be more experienced with one technique. Whichever method is chosen, modern medicine has come such a long way that you can very likely go home the same day as surgery, be walking around without crutches in less than a week, and return to full sport and activity within 12 months. However, please consult your medical professional for advice as the needs and recovery time will vary from one individual to another.

A fantastic guide has been put together which details everything you need to know about ACL surgery and rehabilitation. Find out more about The Essential ACL Reconstruction and Recovery Guide.

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