What you can expect

By Mayo Clinic Staff

In most instances, general anesthesia is used during ACL reconstruction, so you'll be unconscious during the procedure. ACL reconstruction is usually done through small incisions — one to hold a thin, tube-like video camera (arthroscope) and the others to allow surgical instruments access to the joint space.

During the procedure

After removing the damaged ligament, your surgeon will replace it with a piece of tendon from another part of your leg or, possibly, from a deceased donor. Your surgeon will drill tunnels into your thighbone and shinbone to accurately position the graft, which is then secured to your bones with screws or other fixation devices.

After the procedure

Once you recover from the anesthesia, you'll be allowed to go home later that same day. Before you go home, you'll practice walking with crutches and your surgeon may ask you to wear a knee brace or splint to help protect the graft.

To reduce swelling and pain in the days immediately following your surgery, follow the R.I.C.E. model of self-care at home:

  • Rest. Use crutches to avoid weight bearing on your knee.
  • Ice. When you're awake, try to ice your knee at least every two hours for 20 minutes at a time.
  • Compression. Wrap an elastic bandage or compression wrap around your knee.
  • Elevation. Lie down with your knee propped up on pillows.

Progressive physical therapy after ACL surgery helps to strengthen the muscles around your knee and improve flexibility.

Jan. 04, 2013