An ACL reconstruction requires placement of a graft (or tissue that is placed in your body to repair a defect or damage). In this case, the graft is replacing the torn ACL. There are at least three places where your doctor can use tissue for a graft. These include:
- The hamstring tendon
- The patellar tendon
- An allograft (a tendon that comes from a cadaver).
Each type of graft has advantages and disadvantages. With the allograft, there is less pain after surgery, and because the graft is not removed from the patient, there are no possible complications from the graft removal. However, there is a small risk of transmitting disease and possible rejection of the graft. The allograft also takes longer to heal, which may affect your rehabilitation and when you can return to sports activities.
The Surgery ItselfDuring an ACL reconstruction, a damaged anterior cruciate ligament is removed and replaced with a graft. Once an incision is made in your knee, the doctor will remove the torn ends of the anterior cruciate ligament and replace them with a patellar tendon, hamstring tendon, or an allograft. When the ACL surgery is complete, a hinged knee brace may be placed to keep your knee in a straight position while it heals.
(Click ACL Surgery to learn more information on how this procedure is performed.)
The goal of ACL reconstruction is to replace a torn or damaged ACL. The procedure usually improves the sensation of an unstable knee or prevents your knee from giving out. Reconstruction is a safe and effective procedure with a very low rate of complications. A majority of patients gain significant, if not total, improvement in their symptoms as a result of this operation.