Bones Home > ACL Surgery Complications

When undergoing ACL surgery, complications may arise, including infections, ligament injury, or allergic reactions. Fortunately, these complications occur in less than 2 percent of all procedures and are often easily treated. Major complications that may occur include fractured kneecap, nerve injury, or blood clots. Although these ACL surgery complications are rare, your overall health plays a role in your likelihood of developing and recovering from them.

ACL Surgery Complications: An Overview

No procedure is ever completely free of risks. However, ACL reconstruction is a safe procedure that is performed thousands of times each year. Complications occur in less than 2 out of 100 procedures.
With ACL surgery, complications can either be minor or major. Most complications are minor, meaning they are temporary and, in most cases, can be treated by your healthcare provider without difficulty.

Minor ACL Surgery Complications

Minor ACL surgery complications include:
  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Numbness around the incision
  • Instrument failure, including breakage
  • Painful or abnormal scar formation
  • Knee stiffness
  • Ligament or cartilage injury
  • Allergic skin reaction to tape, dressing, or latex.

Major ACL Surgery Complications

There are several major complications that can also occur during or after ACL reconstruction. These are uncommon, but your overall health will play a role in your likelihood of developing them, as well as your ability to recover from them should they happen. For example, patients with lung or kidney disease, severe heart disease, or diabetes may have a higher chance of complications occurring than those who are healthier.
Major ACL surgery complications include, but are not limited to:
  • Serious infections
  • Fracture of the kneecap or thighbone
  • Rupture or failure of the graft
  • Blood clots in the legs, pelvis, or lungs
  • Nerve injury
  • Serious bleeding from blood vessel injury
  • Serious reaction to anesthesia
  • Allergic reaction to medication
  • Persistent pain or numbness
  • Long-term decreased knee motion
  • Persistent swelling of the knee
  • Transmission of disease (if a cadaver ACL is used)
  • Thighbone fracture (if a hamstring graft is used)
  • Continued knee looseness or return of the original symptoms
  • Loss of life
  • Other rare and improbable events.
Depending on the individual situation, a major complication may lead to a longer hospital stay, a repeat surgery, or, in infrequent cases, permanent disability or even loss of life.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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