Knee ligament surgery, including anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction, is usually performed to repair damage caused by an injury. During the operation, a graft is taken from another part of your knee or from a donor, or is made from a synthetic material, and is fixed in place of the affected ligaments.
Tearing the anterior cruciate ligaments (ACL) can be a fairly common sporting injury, causing swelling, restricted movement and knee pain. Depending on a number of factors, including how much pain you're experiencing, surgery may be your best option for recovery.
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You will have a formal consultation with a healthcare professional. During this time you will be able to explain your medical history, symptoms and raise any concerns that you might have.
We will also discuss with you whether any further diagnostic tests, such as scans or blood tests, are needed. Any additional costs will be discussed before further tests are carried out.
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Our dedicated team will also give you tailored advice to follow in the run up to your visit.
We understand that having surgery can potentially be a time of anxiety and worry. Our experienced and caring medical staff will be there for you, holding your hand, every step of the way.
Knee ligament repair is usually performed through keyhole surgery and under a general anaesthetic, which means you'll be asleep during the procedure. This less invasive method generally involves a shorter recovery time than traditional surgery.
During the operation, a small incision (about 5mm long) is made in the skin over the knee that is being treated. Sterile fluid is put into the joint to help get a clearer picture. Another small incision is made for the arthroscope (a long, thin telescope with a light source and camera). Your surgeon then looks into the joint, either directly through the arthroscope, or at pictures it sends to a video monitor.
Surgical instruments are inserted through further small cuts. The torn ligaments are trimmed and the knee is prepared for the replacement graft. The graft is shaped, attached to the bones and fixed in place, usually with screws.
At the end of the procedure, the fluid is drained out of the joint. The incisions are closed with stitches or adhesive strips. The operation usually lasts one to two hours.
While the procedure is normally performed using keyhole surgery, a small number of people need surgery to open up the knee joint. Your surgeon will discuss which procedure is most suitable for you.
After this, you will be taken to your room or comfortable area where you can rest and recuperate until we feel you’re ready to go home.
You will usually need to stay at least one night in hospital.
You will see a physiotherapist before the operation, once or twice a day during your hospital stay, and then as an outpatient for a number of weeks or months. During the first few weeks you should be prepared to see a physiotherapist twice a week. The amount of physiotherapy required varies, so please follow the advice of your physiotherapist and surgeon.
If you need them, continue taking painkillers as advised by the hospital.
We will provide you with a supply of all the medicines your consultant feels you need to take home with you after you've left hospital, up to 14 days. This may be at an additional cost to some patients.
Walking short distances – little and often – will speed your recovery. You can apply ice packs (such as frozen peas wrapped in a towel) to your knee up to four times a day to help reduce any pain and swelling. You must follow your surgeon's advice about driving and returning to work. You shouldn't drive until you are confident that you could perform an emergency stop without discomfort.
Once you’re ready to be discharged from hospital, you’ll need to arrange a taxi, friend or family member to take you home as you won’t be able to drive.
Even after you’ve left hospital, we’re still looking after you every step of the way. After knee ligament surgery, we will provide you with all the appropriate medication, physiotherapy exercises, advice on what to do and not to do with your knee and follow-up support.
Typically your consultant will want to see you after your treatment to see how you’re doing. You will also be seen by a physiotherapist.
On rare occasions, complications following knee ligament surgery can occur, such as infection of the wound or joint, damage to nearby nerves or blood vessels, and tears or stretches to the graft. The chance of complications depends on the exact operation you are having and other factors such as your general health.
We will talk to you about the possible risks and complications of having this procedure and how they apply to you.
If you have any questions or concerns, we’re ready to help.
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The treatment described on this page may be adapted to meet your individual needs, so it's important to follow your healthcare professional's advice and raise any questions that you may have with them.