ACL surgery: Preparation, Procedure, and Recovery | PreferredMD
Orthopedic Surgery

ACL surgery: Preparation, Procedure, and Recovery

Procedure • By Biraj Patel

If you've recently faced the dreaded ACL injury or find yourself on the brink of ACL surgery, you're probably riddled with questions and concerns. Fear not, we'll walk you through everything you need to know about ACL surgery, from preparation to recovery. 

What is ACL surgery?

ACL surgery, or Anterior Cruciate Ligament surgery, is a common orthopedic procedure that aims to repair a damaged or torn ACL. The ACL is a crucial ligament in the knee, providing stability and preventing excessive movement. When it's injured, surgery may be necessary to regain knee function.

What causes ACL surgery?

Most ACL surgeries are necessitated by an ACL injury or tear. This can occur during sports, especially those involving sudden stops, pivoting, or changes in direction. However, non-sports-related injuries, such as slips, falls, and car accidents, can also lead to ACL tears.

Is ACL surgery a major surgery?

Yes, ACL surgery is considered a major procedure. It involves intricate work on a vital joint and requires anesthesia, making it a more substantial surgery than some other orthopedic interventions. While it's common, it's not to be taken lightly.

Preparing for ACL surgery

The journey begins with a consultation with an orthopedic specialist. They will evaluate the extent of your ACL injury and discuss the best course of action. During this consultation, don't hesitate to ask any questions or express your concerns.

It's essential to have a clear understanding of the type of ACL surgery you'll be undergoing. Whether it's ACL repair, reconstruction, or partial reconstruction, knowing what to expect will help you mentally prepare.

Your surgeon will provide you with pre-operative instructions, which typically include guidelines on fasting, medications, and other specific measures to ensure you're in the best possible condition for surgery. Complying with these instructions is crucial.

On the day of surgery, you won't be in any condition to drive yourself home. Arrange for a friend or family member to pick you up and assist you during the initial post-operative days. Also, your home environment should be adapted to accommodate your post-operative needs. Create a comfortable recovery area with necessary supplies, including pillows, ice packs, and prescribed medications. Make sure everything is within easy reach to minimize movement.

In some cases, your surgeon may recommend pre-operative physical therapy. This can help strengthen the muscles surrounding your knee, which may contribute to a smoother recovery.

The ACL surgery itself

You're probably curious about what happens during ACL surgery. Well, there are three primary types of ACL surgery.

Three types of ACL surgery

ACL repair 

In this approach, the surgeon mends the torn ACL, preserving your original ligament. This method is suitable for patients with a healthy ACL remnant and minimal damage.

ACL reconstruction

When the ACL is severely damaged or completely torn, the surgeon replaces it with a graft, typically from your hamstring or patellar tendon. This is the most common form of ACL surgery.

Partial ACL reconstruction

Sometimes, only a portion of the ACL is damaged. In such cases, a partial reconstruction may be performed to address the specific issue.

The type of surgery you'll have depends on the extent of your injury and the recommendations of your orthopedic surgeon.

ACL surgery recovery time and post-operative care

Recovery times can vary, but it typically takes around six to nine months to return to full physical activity. It's essential to follow your surgeon's guidance and engage in physical therapy to expedite your healing process.

Avoid high-impact activities, such as running or jumping, in the initial stages of recovery. These activities can strain your newly reconstructed ACL and hinder the healing process.

Can I walk immediately after ACL surgery?

Yes, you can walk soon after surgery, but you'll likely require crutches or a knee brace for support. Weight-bearing is gradually increased as you progress through rehabilitation.

Can I run after ACL surgery?

Running after ACL surgery is possible, but it should only be attempted when your surgeon and physical therapist clear you for it. Rushing back to running can jeopardize your recovery and increase the risk of re-injury.

Is life normal after ACL surgery?

Life after ACL surgery can be quite normal. Once you've completed your rehabilitation and your knee has healed, you can return to your regular activities, including sports. The key is to be patient and diligent during your recovery.

Discuss ACL repair with the best orthopedic surgeons on PreferredMD

ACL surgery is a significant but common orthopedic procedure that aims to restore the function of a damaged or torn ACL. It's important to prepare mentally and physically for the surgery, follow post-operative guidelines, and engage in rehabilitation for a successful recovery. Remember that a skilled orthopedic surgeon is your best ally in this journey. So, choose wisely, and take your time to heal and regain your knee's strength.

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