Do You Have An ACL Injury?
Of all the injuries an athlete could face, an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear is the most feared. About 200,000 people suffer ACL tears every year. In almost all cases, this severe knee injury requires surgery. The surgeon will decide between ACL repair and ACL reconstruction.
All about the anterior cruciate ligament
The anterior cruciate ligament connects the thigh and shin bones. The ACL crosses with the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) and stabilizes the knee. These ligaments help with sudden direction changes and prevent the knee from moving too far forward. However, a sudden change of direction, awkward landing, or a blow to the knee can cause the ligament to tear.
Signs of a torn ACL
ACL tears are usually partial tears or full-thickness tears. Most patients who experience ACL tears feel a popping sensation. Other signs and symptoms include dull, aching pain, swelling, and difficulty straightening the knee. If left untreated, the knee can lose stability, making simple movement difficult. Reducing the swelling and getting medical attention must happen as soon as possible.
Stitching things up
Some patients, particularly those with partial tears, can benefit from an ACL repair. The surgeon will use an arthroscopic, minimally invasive procedure to fix the ligament. First, a narrow device with attached camera is sent through the knee. The surgeon then uses strong stitches through the damaged ligament in a cross pattern. Holes are then drilled through the thigh bone to anchor the stitches and ligament. The ends are also anchored through the shin bone to secure the ACL is in the right place. In some types of ACL repair, the surgeon may use the patient’s blood and stem cells to encourage healing. Finally, the surgeon closes up the incisions to complete the repair with everything in place.
A whole new ligament
ACL reconstruction is far more common than ACL repair. The goal is to replace the ligament completely since the ligament has few blood vessels for self-repair. The surgeon will use arthroscopic means to replace the tendon. First, the surgeon removes the tendon and cleans the area. Next, through another buttonhole incision, the surgeon inserts and fastens the new ligament. The ligament is usually a graft from the patient’s hamstring but can sometimes be a donor’s tendon. Stitches and anchor screws through the bones hold the tendon in place. The incisions are closed, and the recovery period begins.
Which one is the best?
ACL reconstruction has been around for decades and has been the go-to procedure for torn ligaments. Reconstruction has a high success rate but can take 6-12 months for a full recovery. ACL repair seeks to keep the patient’s ligament in place to promote self-healing. The ligament may also require stem cells. The goal with ACL repair is a faster recovery time and reduced chances of arthritis in the future. However, ACL repair is relatively new, and more studies are ongoing. Surgeons skilled in both will present the options to the patient for the best possible outcome.
Get back in action
A partial or fully Torn ACL can stop sports or daily activities without the proper treatment. Both surgeries aim to heal and restore the knee’s natural Range of Motion. ACL reconstruction may happen in most cases, particularly for a fully torn ligament. Since the ACL won’t tear evenly, doctors will often choose reconstruction. However, ACL repair shows promise by keeping the original ligament and encouraging healing. Go through each option with an orthopedic surgeon and choose the best one to get back in action.