A tear to the anterior cruciate ligament can be very painful. It’s one of the most common major ligaments of the knee to tear. An ACL injury is very common in athletes, especially those participating in basketball, soccer, or football.
An ACL tear makes for an unstable knee, and, without treatment, can severely affect the function of the knee. The knee joint will also be more prone to further injury of the meniscus and surrounding cartilage. Arthritis may also develop if treatment is not pursued. Only about 20 percent of patients can recover successfully from an ACL tear without surgery. The knee has a tendency to deteriorate over time if not treated properly, leaving devastating long term affects to the patient. Though tearing the ACL was once a career ending injury, new advancements in medicine and treatment techniques have made into a highly-treatable condition.
ACL reconstructive surgery provides a wide variety of options to surgeons in the repairing of the ligament. Tendon grafts can be created with a variety of tendons harvested from certain parts of a patient’s body or a donor. These grafts are called autograft (from the patient) and allograft (from a donor).
Prior to surgery, Dr. Millstein will choose which type of graft is best based for each individual patient. Each tissue being harvested requires a different method of harvesting. Though autografts have been the standard for many years in ACL reconstruction, allografts are becoming more popular with new safety standards.
Arthroscopy is one of the greatest advancements in ACL treatment. Since 1987, arthroscopic technology has made ACL repair easier as surgeons do not need to cut the knee open. At the time of surgery, arthroscopy allows a complete examination of the inside of the knee. All damage from the injury can be assessed, including other parts of torn cartilage, bone chips, and any other problems in the knee that could be causing pain and debilitation.
What is Arthroscopy?
Arthroscopy allows for a new anterior cruciate ligament to be made for the knee without making a large cut on the surface of the knee. During an arthroscopic surgery, a small incision and three smaller cuts for the arthroscopic tools are made. Drill holes are made in the bones to place dissolvable screws that hold the new ligament in place.
The best material used to build an ACL is tendon tissue from the body. The tissue harvested for the repair process is dependent on a patient’s injury. Some tendons cause less pain in the harvesting process than others.
Arthroscopy also allows patients to have surgery in an outpatient setting and return home the same day. Patients are encouraged to keep active and begin bearing weight on the joint within a week following surgery to begin the recovery process.