ACL Surgery: Choosing a Technique
The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is crucial to knee stability and function. Ligaments are long pieces of tough tissue that help hold bones together, and when they become damaged, the joint may be compromised. ACL injuries are common among active individuals, particularly those who play sports. Minor injuries often require physical therapy, while ACL surgery can help those with more severe injuries return to an active lifestyle.
The Basics of ACL Surgery
When an ACL is sprained or tears slightly due to an accident or sports injury, it can often repair itself. However, full ACL tears cannot regenerate, so reconstruction requires a special type of surgery called an ACL graft. Using tissue from the patient’s own body or a cadaver, a surgeon replaces the damaged ACL to restore functioning.
In autograft surgery, a healthy tendon is surgically removed from another area of the patient’s body and used to replace the torn ACL. Patients have two options for graft location: patella or hamstring. Doctors can remove a third of the patellar tendon, which connects the kneecap to the leg, to use as an ACL graft. While this form of ACL surgery is typically very successful, there is an increased risk of pain or patellar tendon injury. The other option is a hamstring tendon graft, in which two tendons are removed from the back of the thigh and bound together to recreate an ACL. The advantage of this type of operation is decreased pain, but recovery time can be substantial.
When using a patient’s own tissue isn’t an option, a prior ACL surgery didn’t take, or the patient is not a highly competitive athlete, a surgeon may opt for an allograft surgery, in which donor tissue is used to replace the ACL. For many people, allografts are effective enough to maintain their lifestyles, and as no graft is required from their own bodies, recovery time is minimal. However, the result may not be as reliable and carries a small risk of disease transmission.
Whichever type of ACL surgery is best for you, a successful operation requires the skill of an experienced orthopedic surgeon. K. Mathew Warnock, MD is a board-certified orthopedic sports medicine specialist who is committed to personalized care and offers treatment for your orthopedic concerns. Call our Houston, TX office today at 281-807-4380 to schedule an appointment for your ACL surgery.