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Anterior cruciate ligament surgery

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About anterior cruciate ligament surgery

The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is a band of tough connective tissue that stretches diagonally across your knee. It joins the thighbone to the shinbone at the knee and supports the knee joint.

The structure of knee with a torn anterior cruciate ligament

If you tear your ACL, you may need anterior cruciate ligament surgery in order to reconstruct it and regain full functionality. This is especially important for younger people who want to return to playing sport.

ACL injuries are common during more demanding sports such as football, baseball, soccer, skiing and basketball.

How can I prepare for anterior cruciate ligament surgery?

ACL surgery is usually performed a few weeks after the injury, in order to give some time for the inflammation to settle down. Before you have surgery, your doctor may recommend a number of steps to help manage your injury.

  • Bracing. To help protect your knee before surgery, your may be given a knee brace. This straps onto you leg around your knee and helps to protect the joint from further injury. In order to reduce further damage you may also be given crutches to keep your full weight off your knee.
  • Physical therapy. Before you have any surgery, your doctor may recommend physical therapy. This is likely to include strengthening your quadriceps and hamstrings, along with exercises to help increase the range of movement in your knee joint.

Before going to hospital, you can prepare by taking a list of medications that you're using to give to your doctor.

ACL surgery sometimes requires an overnight stay. Talk to your doctor about this. If you are staying overnight, remember to pack a bag.

What happens during my treatment?

ACL surgery is usually carried out under general anaesthetic. This means you will be asleep during the procedure. However, it is sometimes carried under local anaesthetic, where you will be awake, but unable to feel anything around your knee.

During the surgery, your doctor will examine your knee and then prepare a graft. A graft is a piece of tissue from elsewhere in your body. It may be taken from other knee tendons, or tendons that run along your leg.

Your doctor will make small incisions in the front of your knee and insert an athroscope (small camera on the end of a tube) to see inside your knee. He or she will then use small surgical instruments to place the graft over the torn ACL, and fix it to the thighbone and shinbone using screws or staples.

The graft acts as a scaffold for the ACL to grow on and repair.

Are there any complications or risks with anterior cruciate ligament surgery? 

Like any procedure, surgery for anterior cruciate ligament surgery carries some risks, including infection, bleeding and stiffness. You should talk to your doctor about the risks involved with your procedure.

Recovering from anterior cruciate ligament surgery

How fast you recover varies from person to person.

Physical therapy is vital. Your doctor will usually recommend exercises to start immediately after your surgery. You may also be advised to use a knee brace and crutches. Regular cleaning of the wound, as well as icing it to reduce swelling, can also help.

Talk to your doctor about what steps you can do to help your recovery.

How much does anterior cruciate ligament surgery cost?

For a guide to what you could pay for your treatment, click here.

What to do now

Once you have decided that you would like to be treated at an HCA hospital, or would like further information, here's what to do next:

  1. Call one of our advisors on + 44 (0) 20 7079 4399 or complete our web enquiry form.
  2. Check with your insurance company that your policy covers your treatment, and obtain authorisation.
  3. Visit or call your GP to obtain a referral letter and then call us to make an appointment to visit your chosen consultant and hospital at a time to suit you.
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