The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is one of four ligaments that hold the bones in the knee in proper position relative to one another. If an ACL ligament tears or ruptures, it will not heal on its own. This can lead to a feeling of instability in the knee when walking or standing. Most injuries to the ACL occur through a twisting injury of the knee. When the ACL is damaged, there is most often a telltale “pop” that is heard or felt by the patient. Symptoms often include pain, swelling, and a feeling of giving away of the injured extremity.
Depending upon the severity of the injury, ACL tears can sometimes be treated with physical therapy to strengthen the knee, and/or bracing. Sometimes, nonoperative therapy is all that is required. If instability persists after an ACL tear, it can bring about additional damage to other structures in the knee including the development of arthritis. Active individuals, such as those involved in sports, are prompted to treat tears with surgical reconstruction. If surgery is necessary, it can be performed arthroscopically. The ruptured ligament will be removed and replaced with either a portion of the hamstring tendon, patellar tendon or with a tendon from a tissue bank. The new tendon is fixed into the bone and held in place with various devices so the ligament can heal into the bone.
Dr. Furie will discuss with patients the next steps after ACL reconstruction. Usually after ACL reconstruction significant rehabilitation is required. Physical therapy is started a few days after surgery in order to regain motion, strength and function in the injured knee. The goal is to regain full function over a period of 4 to 6 months.
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