How are knee ligaments injured?
The ACL is located toward the front of the knee. It is the most common ligament to be injured. The ACL is often stretched or torn during a sudden twisting motion (when the feet stay planted one way, but the knees turn the other way). Skiing, basketball and football are sports that have a higher risk of ACL injuries.
The PCL is located toward the back of the knee. It is also a common knee ligament to be injured. However, the PCL injury usually occurs with sudden, direct impact, such as in a car accident or during a football tackle.
The MCL is located on the inner side of the knee. It is injured more often than the LCL, which is on the outer side of the knee. Stretch and tear injuries to these ligaments are usually caused by a blow to the outer side of the knee, such as when playing hockey or football.
How are knee ligament injuries treated?
If a knee ligament is injured, early medical treatment may include:
- Applying an ice pack (to reduce swelling within hours of the injury)
- Compression, using an elastic bandage or brace
- Pain relievers
If a ligament is torn, additional treatment might include:
- Muscle-strengthening exercises
- A protective knee brace (for use during exercise)
- Activity limitations
When the knee ligament tear is severe, the knee may become unstable. A person may not be able to twist or turn the knee, and the knee may buckle or give way. Surgery to repair or reconstruct the ligament may be necessary.
What are the risks of the procedure?
As with any surgical procedure, complications can occur. Some possible complications may include, but are not limited to:
- Continued knee laxity or stiffness
- Continued pain/dysfunction
- Rare blood clots in the legs or lungs
Some individuals experience pain, limited range of motion in the knee joint and occasional swelling in the knee after surgery. Others have increased motion in the knee joint as the new ligament stretches over time.
There may be other risks depending on your specific medical condition. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your doctor prior to the procedure.
What is involved in the surgery?
Our orthopaedic surgeons perform knee ligament surgery on an outpatient basis, meaning there is no overnight stay in the hospital. The surgery is done under general anesthesia usually accompanied by a regional nerve blocking medication.
The surgery to correct a torn knee ligament involves replacing the ligament with a piece of healthy tendon. A tendon from the front of the knee or hamstring, for example, is grafted into place to replace the torn ligament. The tendon graft may come from the person or from an organ donor.
The surgeon will perform the surgery using an arthroscope, a small tube-shaped instrument that is inserted into the joint. Small sockets are created in the thigh bone and shin bone, and the new ligament will be passed through the sockets and attached with an implant. New bone will eventually grow around the ligament. The small incisions will be closed with stitches or surgical staples.