Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) surgery replaces the damaged ligament with a new ligament called a graft. In most cases, the graft is a tendon taken from your own knee or hamstring. In some cases, the graft comes from a donor.
Your doctor uses a lighted tube called an arthroscope, or scope. He or she puts this and other surgical tools through small cuts in your knee. Your doctor may make a larger cut to take the graft from your knee or hamstring. He or she then replaces the ACL with a graft. The cuts are called incisions. They leave scars that usually fade with time.
Most people go home on the same day of the surgery or the next day. Your knee will slowly get stronger as you recover. You may be able to go back to most of your normal activities within a few weeks. But it will be months before you have complete use of your knee. It may take as long as 6 months before your knee is ready for hard physical work or certain sports.
You will need physical rehabilitation (rehab) after surgery. This will build your strength and improve the motion of your joint. At first, you will get help with the exercises. Later, you will get exercises to do on your own. The rehab will last for several months. After surgery and rehab, you should have less pain and your knee should be more stable. Your knee should not give out or buckle.
How soon you can return to sports or exercise depends on how well you follow your rehab program and how well your knee heals. If you had a partial meniscectomy, you might be able to play sports in about 1 to 2 months. If you had meniscus repair, it may be 3 to 6 months before you can play sports.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
Surgery can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for surgery.
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Current as of: September 20, 2018
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
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