ACL Surgery & ACL Tear Treatment in Dallas & Frisco
ACL Reconstruction Surgery
ACL Tear Surgery
In Dallas and Frisco, orthopedic surgeons of SPORT Orthopedics + Physical Therapy perform hundreds of ACL reconstructions every year. Many times the procedure can be done using arthroscopy, a minimally invasive approach that involves inserting tools and a tiny camera through a small incision, which enables Dr. Berry or Dr. O’Brien, two of the top orthopedic surgeons in Dallas, to see inside the joint and repair the ACL.
ACL Surgery FAQs
- What is the ACL?
- What Causes ACL Tears?
- How to Prevent ACL Tears
- How Do You Know if You’ve Torn Your ACL?
- Do You Need ACL Surgery?
- Is ACL Reconstruction a Major Surgery?
- Is ACL Reconstruction Surgery Painful?
- What are ACL Reconstruction Surgery Alternatives?
- What Happens After ACL Reconstruction Surgery?
- What is ACL Treatment Recovery Like?
- Knee Anatomy
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What is the ACL?
Firstly, what does ACL stand for? The anterior cruciate ligament, commonly known as the ACL, is one of the most injured ligaments in the knee. Ligaments are thick fibers that connect our bones together. The ACL connects the thigh-bone to the leg. It is responsible for providing stability to the knee joint.
Torn ACLs are more common among athletes. The ACL is more likely to tear with abrupt movements or abrupt halts, similar to the actions frequently performed during sports, such as football, basketball, skiing, and soccer.
The ACL can be torn completely or partially. Unlike most of the body parts, the ACL is unable to repair itself. This means that when the ACL is injured, it is commonplace to see other knee structures damaged, as well. A torn ACL can be treated either non-surgically or surgically.
- The Tibia, or shinbone
- The Femur, or thighbone, sits on top of the tibia, the larger leg bone.
- The Patella, or kneecap, glides in a groove on the end of the femur.
Large muscle groupings in the thigh give the knee its strength and stability:
- The quadriceps muscles-group of muscles on the front of the thigh that straighten and rotate the leg.
- The hamstring muscles- located on the back of the thigh and bend or flex the knee.
Ligaments are strong tissues that provide stability and allow the leg to move. They also enable flexibility while maintaining balance. Four ligaments connect our knee bones together:
- The medial collateral is located on the inside of the knee, and the lateral collateral is at the outer side of the knee. These two ligaments help the joint to resist side to side stress.
- The anterior cruciate ligament and the posterior cruciate ligament cross each other inside of the knee joint. These ligaments help to keep the joint aligned. They also counteract forward and backward forces and keep the bones in place. They also control rotation of the tibia.
Two cartilage disks, Menisci, are located on the end of the tibia. This cartilage forms a smooth surface, allowing the bones to glide easily during motion. The menisci act as shock absorbers when we walk or run.
A smooth tissue capsule covers the bones in our knee, and a thin synovial membrane lines this capsule. The synovium secretes a liquid known as synovial fluid. The synovial fluid acts as a cushion and lubricant between the joints, which allows the knee to move painlessly. Proprioceptive nerve fibers are inside in the ligaments and joint capsules, sending signals throughout the body.
What Causes ACL Tears?
The ACL can tear during harsh twisting motions and can also tear if the knee is hyperextended or bent backward. Oftentimes, an injury to the anterior cruciate ligament occurs in a non-contact fashion. This means that swiftly changing directions in order to dodge a defender on the soccer field or landing a layup on the basketball court can easily cause an ACL injury.
Any sudden force on the knee from a twist or landing may cause the anterior cruciate ligament to tear.
ACL tears occur most frequently in younger athletes. Female athletes have a higher rate of ACL tears than males.
How to Prevent ACL Tears
While participating in sporting events, injuries will always be a possibility, even if you follow all the precautions. However, you can follow general steps in order to minimize the risk related to your athletic techniques, training, and lifestyle, in general.
At SPORT Orthopedics in Dallas and Frisco, Texas, we recommend the following to prevent ACL tears, as well as other sports injuries:
- Always practice proper technique. While this is not a guarantee, using the correct technique in training and playing a sport can help stop sports injuries, like ACL tears. Techniques are there for a reason, and most of the time, they’re to protect the athlete.
- Avoid working out when you’re overly tired. While we certainly understand the importance of conditioning for athletes, you should never lose sight of your technique. It’s important for everyone to get enough sleep, especially those involved in sports or physical activities.
- Balance your training for strength and flexibility. Muscles that are both tight or overstretched are more prone to anterior cruciate ligament injuries. Working to balance your strength and flexibility is the key to protecting your muscles from injury.
- Try to develop your muscle groups evenly. You never want to focus on one group of muscles, while ignoring the rest. This increases your risk of injury, regardless if you play a sport or not.
- Eat healthily. Poor nutrition leads to an array of health issues, including decreased attention, strength, and endurance.
It is crucial and critical that the patient adheres to the exercise program and safety precautions given by our orthopedic surgeons while staying as active as possible.
How Do You Know if You've Torn Your ACL?
Individuals usually experience pain, swelling, and knee instability immediately after the ACL tears. It is common to hear of the knee “buckling”, or “giving out”. The knee may be unable to fully extend and have difficulty moving.
If you suspect you have torn your ACL, you should seek immediate medical attention. A doctor can evaluate your knee and will examine your knee and your leg alignment. You may be asked to perform simple movements to help our Frisco or Dallas orthopedic surgeons determine muscle strength, joint motion, and stability.
Many people confuse ACL and MCL tears, but these are two completely different injuries. If you’re unsure of which injury you might have sustained, read our blog about the differences between an ACL vs MCL tear.
Most doctors perform the Lachman Test to determine if the ACL is intact. For this, the patient lies on his or her back and slightly bends the knees. The doctor then places one hand on the thigh and attempts to pull the leg forward with the other hand, comparing one leg to the other. If the leg can move three to five millimeters, the test is positive for an ACL tear.
Pivot Shift Test
The Pivot Shift Test is another popular test used by doctors to determine if the ACL is functioning. For this test, the patient straightens the leg. The doctor then holds the leg while turning it and moving it toward the body. If the leg moves in and out of position, the test is ACL tear positive.
ACL Reconstruction Surgery
During ACL surgery, one of our orthopedic surgeons will replace your damaged ACL with a graft.
A patellar tendon autograft will use the middle section of the patellar tendon and bone plugs from the shin and kneecap. This type of surgery is often recommended for high-demand athletes and individuals that do not have to perform a lot of kneeling activities.
A hamstring tendon autograft uses either one or two tendons from the hamstring muscles. The hamstring tendon autograft is suitable for smaller or fit individuals with a small patella bone and a history of pain. This method is known to have a faster recovery time
A quadriceps tendon autograft uses the center of the quadricep tendon and a bone plug from the upper end of the kneecap. This type of graft is large and is most appropriate for taller and heavier individuals or for individuals for whom an ACL surgery has failed in the past.
Allografts are taken from cadavers and are most suitable for patients:
- who have a history of pain
- that are older and have a moderately active lifestyle
- with prior failed ACL reconstructions
- wanting to return to sports quickly
- that need more than one ligament reconstructed
Do I Need ACL Surgery?
When the ACL tear is severe, it often requires surgery to repair the ligament. The most common of these procedures is reconstruction. It involves replacing the torn ligament with new tissue in the form of a tendon graft taken from your own knee or area near your knee (autograft) or from a donor (an allograft).
Is ACL Reconstruction a Major Surgery?
Injuries requiring ACL reconstruction or replacement of the ACL are common among athletes. ACL reconstruction surgery can help restore range of motion, function and stability to the knee joint after an ACL injury. ACL reconstruction surgery is a common but major surgery with risks, like any other surgery. But, for most, the rewards outweigh those risks.
Is ACL Reconstruction Surgery Painful?
An ACL injury is a serious injury and commonly does require surgery. Once Dr. Berry or Dr. O’Brien completes the ACL reconstruction, patients are on the path to recovery. During this time, after an ACL reconstruction surgery, you may suffer from pain and inflammation, which is normal.
Many ACL reconstruction surgeries are outpatient procedures. The patient may either be anesthetized for surgery or receive a nerve block. The surgeon will make one or more small incisions, about a quarter to half inch in length, near the joint. The surgeon will fill the joint space with a sterile saline solution, to expand the area. One of our orthopedic surgeons will then insert an arthroscope and will reposition it to see the joint from multiple angles.
After this, our orthopedic surgeons may make more small incisions. The new graft is attached using surgical hardware. Our surgeon will then test the new graft and the knee’s function. Again, the surgeon will examine the knee by performing similar muscle tests conducted during the clinical examination to ensure that the knee is stable and has a full range of motion.
What are ACL Reconstruction Surgery Alternatives?
Surgical treatment is recommended for those with ACL tears along with other injuries. Patients who are active individuals, whether it be sports, job, or lifestyle, in general. It is also recommended for those with unstable knees and have multiple injuries, such as damage to the meniscus, articular cartilage, joint capsule, or ligaments.
In most cases, patients are advised to participate in physical therapy. Swelling can make the knee stiff, and immobility can cause the muscles and ligaments to actually shorten. A physical therapist will help to stretch the knee to regain full movement. However, if the collateral ligaments are involved, a brace may be needed prior to your surgery.
What Happens After ACL Reconstruction Surgery?
Following ACL reconstruction, you will spend a few hours in a recovery area, where ice is applied to the knee to prevent swelling, and you may be fitted for a brace. Most patients may go home the same day after surgery and are sent home with pain medication to help the post-surgery pain. The doctor may advise ice or to keep the leg elevated and may also prescribe blood thinning medication and special support stockings.
In some cases, the doctor may prescribe compression boots and a continuous passive motion, or CPM, machine. These are inflatable leg coverings that attach to the CPM machine. This works by gently squeezing the legs to aid blood circulation, decrease swelling, and restores movement back to the knee.
Walking and movement are a critical component of your recovery. Exercising, or physical therapy, usually begins right after the surgery. At first, the patient will need to use a walker or crutches while moving. Later, the doctor may prescribe a knee brace. It can take four to six months to restore the coordinated leg movements.
An occupational therapist can show you how to complete everyday tasks with your movement restrictions, such as getting dressed, bathing, etc.
Following the come care instructions is crucial to your success. In fact, it’s dependent on it. As with most surgeries, the recovery times will differ depending on the severity of the injury, the type of procedure, and the patient’s overall health. Generally, most patients should be able to resume some of their regular activities in as little as one to three weeks after his or her procedure. The majority of patients can resume functional activities after ACL reconstruction.
What is ACL Treatment Recovery Like?
Within the first few weeks after surgery, you should strive to regain a range of motion equal to or close to that of your opposite knee. Recover generally takes about 9 months. However, it can take up to a year for athletes to return to their normal activities and more intense sports.
Contact SPORT Orthopedics + Physical Therapy Today
At SPORT, we handle a wide variety of conditions and offer an even wider variety of treatment options. From surgery to noninvasive treatment plans, our Dallas orthopedic surgeons and Dallas physical therapy providers are here for you. To schedule an appointment with us, please call 469-200-2832 today. We’ll have you back on your feet and back in the game in no time.