Surgery is generally required for an ACL to heal completely, although nonsurgical treatments like bracing and physical therapy can be considered for older patients with less active lifestyles.
During ACL reconstructive surgery, an orthopaedic surgeon replaces the torn ligament with a tendon by making small incisions over the front of the kneecap. The tendon that replaces the ACL acts as a graft. The surgeon then makes small incisions on the side of the knee and uses a tiny fiber-optic camera to guide the ACL into place. Once the procedure is complete, special screws are used to secure the ends of the graft to the thigh and lower leg bones.
The procedure is typically done arthroscopically in an outpatient setting with the recovery usually lasting about six to nine months.
Progressive physical therapy after ACL repair surgery helps to strengthen the muscles around the knee and improve flexibility. A licensed physical therapist is a crucial member of any post-surgical rehabilitation team teaching patients the best exercises needed for proper healing and rehabilitation.
At Advanced Orthopaedic Centers, a physical therapist devises an individualized treatment program for each patient’s specific needs and goals. Treatment programs may include:
- Movement, strengthening, and balance exercises
- Electrical stimulation
- Slowly returning to sporting or other activities