Nerve Injury With ACL Surgery
A potential complication of any surgery is nerve injury. With ACL surgery, a small nerve located in front of the knee can be cut or stretched, causing numbness. Injury to a major nerve of the leg is also a potential complication, but it occurs in less than 1 out of 5,000 patients. If swelling occurs due to nerve injury with ACL surgery, another operation may be required to repair it.
Your brain and spinal cord are responsible for the function, control, and coordination of your body's activities, including providing for feeling and movement. Your body uses nerves as connections between your brain and spinal cord and then to the rest of your body. Nerves can connect into muscles to allow for movement. Nerves can also connect with the skin to provide feeling.
Nerves from the spinal cord and brain are relatively large in size. As the nerves branch out, they become smaller and their function more specialized. Nerves located under the skin that provide for feeling are quite small. Because of their size and location, these nerves are often cut during surgery. In fact, it is impossible to perform surgery without cutting at least some small nerves. The abnormal skin feeling caused by this is usually in a very small area.
There is a slightly larger nerve located just under the skin in front of the knee. This nerve is occasionally cut or stretched during this procedure, which causes numbness on the outside of the knee. This numbness generally improves over time, but rarely returns to normal. Sometimes, swelling at the end of a cut nerve can also develop, which causes significant pain. This is called a neuroma and may require surgery to be removed.
Injury to a major nerve of the leg is also a potential complication with ACL reconstruction, occurring in less than 1 out of 5,000 procedures. In extreme cases, permanent nerve damage can occur, resulting in long-term numbness and loss of strength around the knee, ankle, and foot. Surgery can be attempted to repair the nerve, but often with limited success.