What To Expect From Arthroscopic Repair Of A Torn ACL
A torn anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, is a common sports injury. Because of its role in the stability of your knee, repairing it is critical. Traditional knee surgery to open and expose the knee joint creates long recovery times and a higher risk of infection. If your orthopedic doctor has recommended an arthroscopic procedure to repair the torn ACL, you'll be back up on your feet much sooner. Here is what you can expect from this procedure and subsequent recovery.
No Overnight Hospital Stay is Needed
Most arthroscopic knee surgery is done as an outpatient. It will be done in a doctor's office or clinic under a regional or local anesthetic. This will make your knee numb so you feel no pain during the procedure. Because you don't need a general anesthetic that would put you to sleep, recovery time after the surgery is brief. You'll be able to go home within an hour or two of having the surgery.
During the procedure, you'll be made comfortable in a special chair or a surgical table. Once the anesthetic takes affect, the orthopedic surgeon will make one or two small incisions over the knee joint. Into one of these incisions, he will place a tube which has a camera attached to the end. The other incision will receive another tube which contains the surgical tools used in the procedure. The camera, called an arthroscope, allows the surgeon to see inside of the knee joint while working. You may be able to watch the procedure on the monitor as the doctor repairs your torn ACL.
Short Recovery Time in the Clinic
Once the procedure is finished, the doctor will close the incisions with sutures or staples and apply a small bandage to each. You'll then be taken to a quiet area to recover. The doctor or their assistants will check on your bandages and make sure the feeling in your leg and knee has returned. You'll be shown how to use crutches and be instructed to put only light weight on your leg. Before you go home, you'll be given a follow-up appointment to see the doctor in a few days.
Starting Your Recovery at Home
Your doctor will have you start physical therapy a few days after you leave the clinic. The goal of this therapy is to slowly relax and stretch out the muscles involved in the surgery and strengthen them to support the knee joint.
Range of Motion Exercises: The therapist will move your knee through its normal range of motion to regain flexibility in the joint. A knee joint with tense, inflexible muscles feels stiff and becomes painful to walk on. The pace will be slow so as not to injure the newly repaired ACL. If you try to move too quickly through any of your physical therapy, you risk damaging the ACL and may even need surgery to repair it again.
Strengthening Exercises: Once the therapist is satisfied with the range of motion in your knee, they will start you on strengthening exercises. These build up the muscles in the knee so they can better support the knee joint against future injury. Walking and bicycling are good strengthening exercises. The therapist may also have you work with machines in their clinic to build up all of the muscles in and around your knee evenly.
If you'll be returning to playing sports, expect the therapy to last several weeks. This gives the ACL a chance to fully heal and the muscles around it to become strong enough to keep you from injuring your knee again out on the field or court. For more information, talk to a professional like Northern Care Inc Prosthetics & Orthotics.