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ACL Reconstruction Surgery

The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is the primary knee stabilizer which connects the thigh bone to the upper leg bone called the femur. Tears are a serious injury often seen in young patients who are physically active. However, as older patients have become actively involved in sports, tears are becoming more common.

Most ACL tears are not caused by physical contract. Rather, they result from a bad landing from a jump, and sports that require pivoting, twisting and sudden deceleration, and cutting including lacrosse, volleyball, basketball, football, soccer, and downhill skiing. Football has the highest rate of competition-related ACL injuries. Female athletes are at greater risk than men, especially female college athletes.

The consequences of an acute ACL rupture include the potential for long-term complications involving secondary damage to the meniscus and articular cartilage, function limitations, posttraumatic osteoarthritis and an impaired quality of life. For these reasons, ACL reconstruction is frequently recommended for athletes with a serious ACL tear.  The goal of ACL reconstruction surgery is to relieve knee pain and restore knee stability and function.

ACL reconstruction surgery is a common procedure in sports medicine. In active patients of all ages without knee arthritis ACL reconstruction surgery can restore knee stability. A majority of patients are able to return to their preinjury level activities.

What is ACL reconstruction?

The procedure is performed to replace a torn ACL ligament. The ligament is replaced with a graft. There are two types of grafts:

  • Autografts – a tendon is harvested taken from another part of the patient’s body.
  • Allografts are taken from a deceased donor

Who is a good candidate?

Dr. Godin may recommend ACL reconstruction for:

  • Patients who are active, young and middle-aged and have knee pain and instability during normal daily activities.
  • Patients who may have an ACL tear, finished rehabilitation and continue to have instability.
  • Athletes who desire to return to play and patients whose work requires knee stability.
  • Patients who have other injured knee ligaments in addition to the ACL tear.
  • Patients with a torn meniscus and an ACL tear (Meniscus tears are often accompanied by a torn ACL)
  • Patients at risk for complications of an ACL tear including damage to the meniscus, articular cartilage and post traumatic osteoarthritis 

Before surgery

When Dr. Godin recommends ACL reconstruction surgery, he will explain the procedure to you, and based on your medical history may recommend certain actions be taken to ensure your safety based on preexisting conditions and drugs taken. He will also likely provide prescriptions for pain medications and antibiotics to take after surgery; and postoperative instructions.

The procedure

ACL reconstruction surgery is an outpatient procedure performed using arthroscopy under general or regional anesthesia. Arthroscopy is a minimally invasive procedure that is safe and effective with added benefits of less scarring; reduced trauma to the muscles, nerves and tissues; less bleeding, less post-operative swelling and less pain; and faster healing, earlier rehabilitation and faster recovery and return to normal activities.

The procedure removes the torn ACL and replacement with a graft. Dr. Godin drills holes in the bones to secure the graft with screws and other devices. Incisions are closed with staples or sutures. A majority of patients are able to return home after surgery, wearing a brace. Recovery with progressive rehabilitation can take about nine months. However, athletes’ return to play may take up to 12 months.

Dr. Jonathan Godin is an award winning, world-class, board-certified orthopedic surgeon, skilled knee surgeon and sports medicine expert. He is also a Steadman Philippon Research Fellow; and   an author of peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters. He always puts his patients first. When you suffer an ACL injury, contact him at the Steadman Clinic in Vail Colorado. You will receive compassionate and state-of-the art care.

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