What is ACL reconstruction?

An ACL tear is a common knee injury, especially in people who do sports that involve high-speed turning, twisting, and jumping, high-speed stops, and blows to the knee. These commonly happen in sports such as soccer, basketball, football, and skiing. 

ACL reconstruction may be recommended if: 

  • Your knee gives out or feels unstable during everyday activities. 
  • You have ongoing knee pain or other injured ligaments. 
  • You still have symptoms even after physical therapy and rehabilitation. 
  • Your job requires knee strength or you are very active in sports. 
  • You are willing to go through a long-term rehabilitation program. 

Where does the new ligament come from?

The tissue used to create a new ACL is called a graft and can come from your body (an autograft) or from a donor (an allograft). An autograft is most often taken from the hamstring tendon or knee cap (patellar) tendon. The hamstring is the muscle at the back of the knee and thigh. An allograft comes from someone who, before death, chose to donate their body to help others.

What are the risks and/or side effects?

Talk with your healthcare provider about benefits, risks, and alternatives to ACL reconstruction. Also ask about the time and effort it will take to recover. There are certain risks that come with any surgery, such as: 

  • Allergic reaction to anesthesia 
  • Breathing problems 
  • Bleeding 
  • Infection 

Other risks specific to ACL surgery include: 

  • Blood clots in the leg 
  • The ligament does not heal 
  • The surgery does not relieve symptoms 

Alternatives to ACL reconstruction include physical therapy and rehabilitation exercises, and knee braces. 

What are the benefits? 

Potential benefits include: 

  • Increased strength and stability in the knee
  • Decreased pain 

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I prepare?

  • Take some time off of work or arrange to work from home. 
  • Ask a responsible adult drive you to and from the surgery center and to stay with you at home for 24 hours. 
  • Arrange for help at home for the first few days after surgery. 
  • Make a list of all the medicines you are taking and bring it with you to the surgery center. Be sure to include all prescriptions, over-the-counter remedies (such as allergy pills or cough syrup), inhalers, patches, vitamin supplements, and herbal remedies. 
  • Follow all instructions from your surgical team about eating and drinking before your procedure.