ACL surgery: Your questions answered

ACL surgery: Your questions answered

A torn ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) is a common injury among athletes and active individuals. It can significantly impact mobility and stability, often requiring surgical intervention for full recovery. Jeffrey R. Padalecki, MD, ARC Orthopedics hip/knee/shoulder care and sports medicine specialist, says, "In orthopedic surgery, there's something truly remarkable about rebuilding an ACL. We are helping people get back on their feet, quite literally. Seeing how it changes their lives, giving them back that freedom to move without fear, is what makes this work so rewarding."

What is a torn ACL?

The ACL is one of the major ligaments in the knee, crucial for stability and movement. A torn ACL occurs when this ligament is overstretched or tears, often due to sudden twisting motions, direct impact, or abrupt changes in direction. Symptoms include pain, swelling, stiffness, instability, and difficulty bearing weight on the affected knee.

Diagnosing an ACL tear

Diagnosing an ACL tear typically involves a thorough examination by a physician, including a review of medical history, physical tests to assess stability and range of motion, and imaging tests like MRI scans to confirm the extent of the injury. Early diagnosis is crucial for planning an appropriate treatment strategy.

What is an ACL reconstruction?

An ACL reconstruction is a surgical procedure aimed at repairing a torn ACL by replacing it with a graft, usually from the patient's own tissue (autograft) or from a donor (allograft). The surgery involves arthroscopic techniques, which use small incisions and specialized instruments to minimize tissue damage and promote faster recovery. During the procedure, the torn ACL is removed, and the graft is placed in position to restore stability to the knee.

How do you know if you need surgery?

Not all ACL tears require surgery. Factors such as the individual's age, activity level, extent of the injury, and presence of associated knee injuries influence the decision to pursue surgical intervention. Generally, younger, active individuals or those with significant instability in the knee are more likely to benefit from ACL reconstruction to regain function and prevent long-term complications like osteoarthritis.

How long does it take to walk normally after ACL reconstruction?

The road to recovery after ACL reconstruction is a gradual process that requires patience and commitment to rehabilitation. Initially, patients may need crutches and a knee brace to support the healing knee. Physical therapy plays a crucial role in restoring strength, flexibility, and proprioception (awareness of body position) to the knee. While timelines vary depending on individual factors, most patients can expect to resume walking without assistance within 6 to 12 weeks post-surgery. However, full recovery and return to sports or high-impact exercise may take several months, with ongoing rehabilitation and gradual progression of activity levels under the guidance of a healthcare professional.

"A torn ACL can be a challenging setback, but with proper diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation, many patients can regain function and return to their active lifestyles," says Dr. Padalecki. "ACL reconstruction offers a promising solution for restoring stability to the knee and facilitating a safe and successful recovery."

Learn more about knee care at ARC.

Make an appointment today

With a patient-centered approach, ARC Orthopedics prioritizes open communication, personalized treatment plans, and ongoing support to ensure the best possible outcomes for patients of all ages.

Take the first step towards a healthier you and schedule an appointment today. Dr. Padalecki has a Fellowship in Shoulder, Knee, and Hip Arthroscopy from The Steadman Clinic in Vail, Colorado. He provides orthopedic services to patients of all ages at three locations: ARC Medical Park Tower Orthopedics in Austin, ARC Southwest in Austin, and ARC Far West in Austin.

Make an appointment through ARC MyChart or ARC Help Me Book or by calling one of the above clinics directly.

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