Treatment for ACL tears include non-surgical and surgical options, depending on the extent of injury, age and activity level of the patient.
Non-surgical treatment for ACL tears include rest and immobilisation to reduce knee pain and swelling. This is followed by physiotherapy to help:
- restore knee function and range of movement
- strengthen the surrounding leg muscles
- increase stability of the knee
For severe ACL tears, reconstruction surgery may be needed. In ACL reconstruction surgery, the torn ligament is removed by an orthopaedic surgeon and replaced with a piece of tendon taken from another part of your knee or from a donor. Surgery may be recommended for:
- athletes who wish to continue in their sport
- those whose injury involves more than one ligament or damage to the meniscus
- those who are experiencing knee buckling during normal daily activities
What can you expect in an ACL reconstruction?
ACL reconstruction is performed under general anaesthesia which means you will be asleep. The procedure is known as arthroscopy. The orthopaedic surgeon will make several small cuts or incisions. These will allow the insertion of a small camera and surgical instruments for the surgeon to remove the damaged ligament and replace it with a piece of tendon, enabling new ligament tissue to grow. The tendon will then be secured to surrounding bones.
You may be allowed to go home on the same day, using crutches and a knee brace or splint. Post-operative pain and swelling is normal, and you will be advised on medications, icing and elevating your leg to relieve the pain and swelling.
Physiotherapy will help to strengthen the muscles around the knee and improve flexibility. Overall recovery takes around nine months though athletes may require a longer recovery time before they can return to their sport.
Consult an orthopaedic surgeon to determine the treatment method most suitable for you.
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