If an ACL injury does not include knee instability or a severe ACL tear, a combination of ice, heat, rest, elevation, physical therapy, bracing and modified activity may be recommended by Dr. Verma. Success of non-operative treatment is based on patient ability to return to recreational activities and any recurrent symptoms of knee instability or giving-way.
A more severe ACL tear or injury may require surgery to restore normal knee function and range of motion. An arthroscopic knee reconstruction is the treatment choice in many cases. This procedure involves removing fragments of the damaged ACL and replacing it with another form of soft tissue, called a graft. Graft options include taking your own tissue, most commonly from the patellar tendon and hamstrings. Advantages of using your own tissue include decreased risk of re-rupture and better incorporation by the body. In some cases, an allograft, or donor tendon, may be recommended. The main advantage of allograft tissue is lower surgical morbidity and faster initial recovery as no tissue is harvested from the patients knee in order to reconstruct the ACL. However some studies have suggested higher risk of re-rupture associated with allograft use, particularly in younger patients.
Following ACL surgery, initial goals of surgery are to reduce swelling and restore motion. Patients are generally able to bear weight in a brace immediately after surgery. Return to work or school is usually possible at 5-10 days after surgery. Formal physical therapy is initiated at approximately five days after surgery. In general, patients are able to initiate an exercise bike by 4-6 weeks, light jogging with progression to return by 12-14 weeks. Return to sports is anticipated at 5-8 months following surgery based on individual progress.
For more information on the treatment of an ACL injury, please contact the orthopedic office of Dr. Nikhil Verma, knee specialist treating patients living in the communities of Chicago, Westchester, Oak Brook and Hinsdale, Illinois.