ACL stands for anterior cruciate ligament, a strong, fibrous band of tissue that runs diagonally through the knee joint, providing support and stability to the joint and working with three other ligaments to connect the upper leg bone (femur) to the lower leg bone (tibia).
ACL injuries occur most often as a result of direct impacts to the knee or from strong twisting or torsion when changing direction while running. The ACL can be completely torn or partially torn, and often, injuries also involve damage to the patella (kneecap), cartilage or other ligaments and soft tissues.
When the ACL becomes torn, the ends cannot be “reconnected.” Instead, ACL reconstruction uses advanced techniques to replace the torn ligament with a ligament graft removed from another part of your body, usually in the knee or upper leg. The reconstruction procedure is not performed until several weeks after the injury, when swelling and inflammation have subsided.
ACL reconstruction may be performed using an “open” incision or it may be performed arthroscopically, using very small incisions. An arthroscope is a thin, flexible instrument that uses a tiny camera to see inside the joint, projecting images of the area to a computer monitor where the doctor can view them. Regardless of the technique used in your reconstruction, the steps are essentially the same: The damaged ligament is removed and the graft is put in place using screws or staples, then the incisions are closed.
Not always; before any decision is made, you'll have a comprehensive evaluation of your condition as well as your lifestyle, overall health and recovery goals to determine if surgery is the best option for you.
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