Knee Ligament Repair

Knee Ligament Repair

(ACL Repair, ACL Reconstruction, PCL Repair, PCL Reconstruction, MCL Repair, MCL Reconstruction, LCL Repair, LCL Reconstruction)

Procedure overview

What is knee ligament repair?

Ligaments are bands of tough, elastic connective tissue that surround a joint to give support and limit the joint's movement. When ligaments are damaged, the knee joint may become unstable. The ligament damage often occurs from a sports injury. A torn ligament severely limits knee movement, resulting in a person’s inability to pivot, turn, or twist their leg. Those individuals who cannot return to normal activities with medical treatments for a torn ligament may have the ligament repaired with surgery.

Anatomy of the knee

Anatomy of the knee joint
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Joints are formed where bones meet. Most joints are mobile, allowing the bones to move. Basically, the knee is two long leg bones held together by muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Each bone end is covered with a layer of cartilage that absorbs shock and protects the knee.

There are two groups of muscles involved in the knee, including the quadriceps muscles (located on the front of the thighs), which straighten the legs, and the hamstring muscles (located on the back of the thighs), which bend the leg at the knee.

Tendons are tough cords of tissue that connect muscles to bones. Ligaments are elastic bands of tissue that connect bone to bone. Some ligaments of the knee provide stability and protection of the joints, while other ligaments limit forward and backward movement of the tibia (shin bone).

The knee consists of the following:

What are the ligaments of the knee?

Anatomy of the knee joint, showing ligaments
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There are four major ligaments in the knee. The ligaments in the knee connect the femur (thighbone) to the tibia (shin bone), and include the following:

Reasons for the procedure

The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is located toward the front of the knee. It is the most common ligament to be injured. The ACL is often stretched and/or torn during a sudden twisting motion (when the feet stay planted one way, but the knees turn the other way). Skiing, basketball, and football are sports that have a higher risk of ACL injuries.

The posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) is located toward the back of the knee. It is also a common knee ligament to be injured. However, the PCL injury usually occurs with sudden, direct impact, such as in a car accident or during a football tackle.

The medial collateral ligament (MCL) is located on the inner side of the knee. It is injured more often than the lateral collateral ligament (LCL), which is on the outer side of the knee. Stretch and tear injuries to the collateral ligaments are usually caused by a blow to the outer side of the knee, such as when playing hockey or football.

Early medical treatment for knee ligament injury may include, but is not limited to, the following:

A knee ligament tear may be treated with the following:

Knee ligament repair is a treatment for a complete tear of a knee ligament that results in instability in the knee. Persons with a torn knee ligament may be unable to do normal activities that involve twisting or turning at the knee. The knee may buckle or “give-way.” If medical treatments are not satisfactory, ligament repair surgery may be an effective treatment.

The surgery to correct a torn knee ligament involves replacing the ligament with a piece of healthy tendon. A tendon from the kneecap or hamstring, for example, is grafted into place to hold the knee joint together. The tendon graft may come from the person (autograft) or from an organ donor (allograft).

There may be other reasons for you doctor to recommend a knee ligament repair.

Risks of the procedure

As with any surgical procedure, complications can occur. Some possible complications may include, but are not limited to, the following:

Some individuals experience pain, limited range of motion in the knee joint, and occasional swelling in the knee after surgical ligament repair. Others have increased motion in the knee joint as the graft stretches over time.

There may be other risks depending on your specific medical condition. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your doctor prior to the procedure.

Before the procedure

During the procedure

Knee ligament repair may be performed on an outpatient basis or as part of your stay in a hospital. Procedures may vary depending on your condition and your doctor's practices.

Knee ligament repair may be performed while you are asleep under general anesthesia, or while you are awake under spinal anesthesia. If spinal anesthesia is used, you will have no feeling from your waist down. Your doctor will discuss this with you in advance.

Generally, knee ligament repair surgery follows this process:

  1. You will be asked to remove clothing and will be given a gown to wear.
  2. An intravenous (IV) line may be started in your arm or hand.
  3. You will be positioned on the operating table.
  4. The anesthesiologist will continuously monitor your heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, and blood oxygen level during the surgery.
  5. The skin over the surgical site will be cleansed with an antiseptic solution.
  6. The doctor will make several small incisions in the knee area.
  7. The doctor will perform the surgery using an arthroscope (a small tube-shaped instrument that is inserted into a joint). The doctor may reattach the torn ligament or reconstruct the torn ligament by using a portion (graft) of the patellar tendon (that connects the kneecap to the tibia), the hamstring tendon (from the back of the thigh), or other autografts. The tendon graft may come from the person (autograft) or from an organ donor (allograft).
  8. The doctor will drill small holes in the tibia and femur where the torn ligament was attached.
  9. The doctor will thread the graft through the holes and attach it with surgical staples or screws. Bone eventually grows around the graft.
  10. The incision will be closed with stitches or surgical staples.
  11. A sterile bandage or dressing will be applied.

After the procedure

After the surgery you will be taken to the recovery room for observation. Your recovery process will vary depending on the type of anesthesia that is given. Once your blood pressure, pulse, and breathing are stable and you are alert, you will be taken to your hospital room or discharged to your home. Knee ligament repair is usually done on an outpatient basis.

You may be given crutches and a knee immobilizer before you go home.

Once you are home, it is important to keep the surgical area clean and dry. Your doctor will give you specific bathing instructions. The stitches or surgical staples will be removed during a follow-up office visit.

Take a pain reliever for soreness as recommended by your doctor. Aspirin or certain other pain medications may increase the chance of bleeding. Be sure to take only recommended medications.

To help reduce swelling, you may be asked to elevate your leg and apply an ice bag to the knee several times per day for the first few days. Your doctor will arrange for an exercise program to help you regain muscle strength, stability, and range of motion.

Notify your doctor to report any of the following:

You may resume your normal diet unless your doctor advises you differently.

Because of the limited mobility, it may be difficult for a few weeks to resume your normal daily activities. You may need someone at home to assist you. You should not drive until your doctor tells you to. Other activity restrictions may apply. Full recovery from the surgery and rehabilitation may take several months.

Your doctor may give you additional or alternate instructions after the procedure, depending on your particular situation.

Online resources

The content provided here is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease, or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your doctor. Please consult your health care provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.

This page contains links to other websites with information about this procedure and related health conditions. We hope you find these sites helpful, but please remember we do not control or endorse the information presented on these websites, nor do these sites endorse the information contained here.

American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

American College of Rheumatology

Arthritis Foundation

National Institute of Child Health and Human Development

National Institutes of Health (NIH)

National Library of Medicine

 

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