How are Knee Ligaments Injured?
There are four major ligaments in the knee. Knee ligaments connect the thigh bone to the shin bone and include:
Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL): The ACL is located toward the front of the knee and 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, soccer and football are sports that have a higher risk of ACL injuries.
Posterior cruciate ligament (PCL): 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.
Medial collateral ligament (MCL): The MCL is located on the inner 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.
Lateral collateral ligament (LCL): This ligament gives stability to the outer knee and is injured less often than the MCL.
Torn Knee Ligament Treatments
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 knee ligament is torn, additional treatment might include:
- Muscle-strengthening exercises
- A protective knee brace (for use during exercise)
- Activity limitations
Can Ligaments Be Repaired?
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. Knee ligament reconstruction or repair surgery may be necessary.
ACL, PCL, MCL and LCL Knee Ligament Repair and Reconstruction Surgery at CHOC
At CHOC, we are dedicated to creating a healing environment that allows patients of all ages to feel comfortable and at ease. Our accommodations combine state-of-the-art facilities with the comforts of home to provide those staying in the hospital a healing and supportive environment. Child life specialists who are devoted to orthopaedic patients will take care of your loved one before, during and after knee ligament repair and reconstruction surgery.
What are the Risks of Knee Reconstruction Surgery?
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 the child’s specific medical condition. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your child’s doctor prior to the procedure.
What is Involved in Knee Ligament 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.