Understanding the Basics Behind ACL Reconstruction
What is ACL Reconstruction?
Whether you’re playing your favorite sport, actively exercising, or just walking in the grocery store, a knee injury can happen to anyone.
There are a variety of knee problems that one can face, whether it’s a joint sprain or strain, afracture, a meniscus tear or disruption of a ligament. One of the most serious injuries is a complete or partial tear of the ACL. Though commonly associated with athletes, ACL injuries can happen to anybody at any time, even when performing normal daily tasks. One wrong step or sudden, forceful turn might result in tearing of this important stabilizing ligament in the knee.
An ACL reconstruction surgery requires the expertise of specially-trained surgeons, like those on our team at Kansas City Orthopedic Alliance. Our expert orthopedic knee physicians perform hundreds of ACL reconstructions each year and have the knowledge and skill you need to help ensure a full recovery.When you visit a specialist at KCOA, we focus on creating a treatment plan based on your specific conditions, symptoms, and recovery goals.
Common signs that may require ACL reconstruction include:
- A loud pop from your knee
- The feeling of a “popping” sensation in the knee
- Severe pain
- Rapid swelling
- Loss of function
- Loss of range of motion
- Instability with bearing weight
Kansas City Orthopedic Alliance ACL Injuries Assessment
Assessing the Injury
Determining the proper treatment process for ACL injuries starts with an assessment from one of our experienced providers.
You can think of knee pain as a spectrum, with some instances being more severe than others. The KCOA orthopedic specialists always focus on each individual patient and their concerns before creating a treatment plan.
Therefore, during your initial appointment, we will often ask questions such as:
From there, we can decide what treatment option will align best with your needs and lifestyle goals. Once we’ve completed a proper assessment, your provider will often begin with a physical examination to help determine the origin point of your pain. In some cases, advanced testing may be required for a full diagnosis.
- How did your injury occur?
- Did you notice or hear a popping sound at the time of your injury?
- Is there swelling in and around the joint?
- Does your knee feel unstable or like it will give out?
- What activities are you returning to following your recovery?
Also called radiographs, an X-ray captures a picture of the knee. Orthopedic physicians may order an X-ray to rule out the possibility of a fracture (broken bone), osteoarthritis, or other bone-related conditions.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
MRI captures images of muscles, bones, ligaments, cartilage, and tendons to help provide information other tests can’t detail. During an MRI, you will lie on a table that slides into a tube-shaped scanner. The machine creates a magnetic field around you, using pulsed radio waves to form the MRI images.
Establishing a Care Plan
Based on the results of your interview, examination, and imaging studies, you can expect a custom care plan catered specifically to you.
Because an ACL tear is normally an acute injury that can cause significant limitations, most patients will seek out treatment immediately.
If you are in constant discomfort, have a limited range of motion, significant swelling or an inability to perform your daily activities, seek out treatment for your potential ACL injury.
New technologies allow patients with ACL tears to fully recover and enjoy the benefits of a more functional, pain-free lifestyle.
Prior to surgery, you will typically receive at least 2 phone calls:
- A hospital registration representative will call to gather insurance and other personal information.
- A registered nurse will call to review your health history and medication information.
Dependent on your health history, your physician may require:
- Pre-surgical laboratory tests
- Primary care clearance
Pre-operative instructions will vary depending on your physician and the location of your surgery.
Always check with your physician before surgery for specific instructions.
Most physicians require that patients not eat or drink after midnight prior to surgery.
Additionally, you will need to designate a family member or friend to drive you home on the day you are released from the hospital. Surgical patients cannot drive themselves home.
Day of Surgery
If you schedule your surgery with a KCOA physician, you can expect the following on surgery day:
- A receptionist will check you in at the hospital registration desk.
- A nurse will take you back and prepare you for surgery. They will start an IV, prepare the surgical site, and review your medical history and medications.
- Your surgeon and anesthesiologist will visit with you prior to your operation.
- The surgical team will take you to the operation suite for surgery.
How it Works
The ACL reconstruction begins by placing the patient under general anesthesia. In most instances our surgeons will utilize minimally invasive arthroscopic techniques to perform the procedure. This includes a combination of fiber optics and small incisions to access and visualize the knee structures.
There are several different grafting options that can be used to replace your torn ACL. Which type of graft is selected is a collaborative decision between the patient and physician.
A graft may be harvested from a portion of your own hamstring, quads, or patellar tendon. This is called an autograft. The other option is to have a donor graft known as an allograft.
Your surgeon will remove the damaged tissue and then drill small tunnels into your thigh bone and shinbone to accurately position the new graft. The graft is positioned in the tunnels and secured to your bones with screws or other fixation devices. The knee is then tested for range of motion and stability before the small incisions are closed.
A patient’s recovery plan and timeline will vary based on a variety of factors, including age, activity level, goals, and more.
However, taking care of your body is essential to ensure optimal results from your ACL reconstruction surgery.
In the immediate aftermath of your surgery, it’s important to keep your foot elevated to reduce swelling.
Your care team will also provide you medications to control soreness.
What to Expect
It usually takes six to nine months for a patient to return to participating in sports after an ACL reconstruction, depending on the level of competition and the type of activity.
Patients are able to walk with crutches and a leg brace on the day of surgery. Very soon after surgery, the patient enters a rehabilitation program to restore strength, stability, and range of motion to the knee.
Depending on your individual timeline, patients can start more vigorous activity after a few months of recovery.
Ultimately return to sport or activity is a joint decision made by the patient, the surgeon and the treating physical therapist following a series of tests to ensure adequate strength, balance and flexibility have been achieved.
Common Signs and Symptoms of ACL Ruptures
With so many different parts working together in your knees, there are many potential causes of pain. And each of those causes has a unique set of symptoms.
ACL tears and injuries are commonly associated with athletic activities. Sudden action and changes of motion (such as planting, running, jumping, and landing) can lead to a tear of the ligament. Though you can treat many knee issues with conservative measures and non-surgical options, including an ACL tear, an ACL reconstruction surgery may be necessary if the patient’s knee doesn’t respond to these treatments.
Causes of Knee Pain
The body has different kinds of joints, and they all face different challenges. The severity of your knee and leg pain can vary based on a number of factors, including the location and the source of the issue.
Many partial or complete ACL tears are non-contact injuries that stem from this sudden twist or rotational force. Although most common in athletics, these types of injuries can happen during normal, everyday motions, such as walking, squatting or bending the knee while twisting.
In most cases, surgery is not the first option for treatment at Kansas City Orthopedic Alliance. If we can treat your knee issues with more conservative treatments, we’ll choose those options. We typically exhaust all non-surgical options prior to recommending surgery. Non-surgical treatments for knee injuries include:
A trained therapist will focus on the issue that’s causing the pain or symptoms as well as the deficits that are present as a result of the injury. Stretches, strengthening exercises, manual soft tissue work and modalities like hot and cold therapy may be used to help you recover from a partial or complete ACL tear.
Your doctor may recommend over-the-counter NSAIDs (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as Advil) or prescription medications. Especially with NSAIDs, you should always talk to your doctor to ensure they are the right treatment for you.
Regenerative medicines like stem cell injections or platelet-rich plasma can help nourish worn or damaged tissue. This option works best if you have mild or partial ligament tears in the knee.
Frequently Asked Questions
Kansas City Orthopedic Alliance is here to help.
Our care is personal. Our team is knowledgeable. And we’re more available than ever.
With access to board-certified specialists across Kansas City, we have the tools to meet almost every musculoskeletal condition.
Overland Park, Kansas10777 Nall Ave Suite 300 Overland Park, KS 66211
Leawood, Kansas3651 College Blvd. Leawood, KS 66211
Kansas City, MissouriSaint Luke's Medical Plaza #1 4320 Wornall Rd., Ste. 610 Kansas City, MO 64111
Belton, MissouriBelton Regional Campus 17067 S Outer Rd #301 Belton, MO 64012
Merriam, Kansas7450 W. Frontage Rd Merriam, KS 66203
This place is amazing! I cannot say enough good things about our experience here! From the reception desk where they were beyond helpful and even made phone calls for me to my kids pediatrician to very short wait time then the patience and help of doctors and staff that were great with my 3 year old! Getting same day service this great was so nice! Love this place and highly recommend!!
I am impressed!
The first thing that I noticed was the traffic flow. This may sound strange but people were being seen and sent out on their way. There was not a huge roomful of frustrated, tired patients. If most (I assume) had uncomfortable and or painful maladies, they didn’t have to wait forever for attention. That was how it was for me. Professional and personable patient care.
An incredibly efficient office.
An incredibly efficient office. Physician was attentive, knowledgeable, clear and supportive. It was a great experience.