Knee Ligament Surgery (ACL)
ACL reconstruction is surgery to replace a torn anterior cruciate (KROO-she-ate) ligament (ACL) — a major ligament in your knee. ACL injuries most commonly occur during sports that involve sudden stops and changes in direction — such as basketball, soccer, football, downhill skiing and gymnastics.
In ACL reconstruction, the torn ligament is removed and replaced with a piece of tendon from another part of your knee or from a deceased donor. This surgery is an outpatient procedure that's performed through small incisions around your knee joint.
ACL reconstruction is performed by a doctor who specializes in surgical procedures of the bones and joints (orthopedic surgeon).
Why It's Done
Ligaments are strong bands of tissue that connect one bone to another. The ACL — one of two ligaments that crosses the middle of the knee — connects your thighbone (femur) to your shinbone (tibia) and helps stabilize your knee joint.
Most ACL injuries happen during sports and fitness activities that can put stress on the knee:
- Suddenly slowing down and changing direction (cutting)
- Pivoting with your foot firmly planted
- Landing from a jump incorrectly
- Stopping suddenly
- Receiving a direct blow to the knee
A course of physical therapy may successfully treat an ACL injury for individuals who are relatively inactive, engage in moderate exercise and recreational activities, or play sports that put less stress on the knees.
ACL reconstruction is generally recommended if:
- You're an athlete and want to continue in your sport, especially if the sport involves jumping, cutting or pivoting
- More than one ligament or the meniscus in your knee is injured
- The injury is causing your knee to buckle during everyday activities
- You're young (though other factors, such as activity level and knee instability, are more important than age)