How Effective Is ACL Reconstruction Surgery, and How Long is the Recovery Process?

Aug 31, 2022

How Effective Is ACL Reconstruction Surgery, and How Long is the Recovery Process?

If you need ACL surgery, the good news is that the repairs get made using less invasive arthroscopic techniques. However, even though this provides for faster recovery times, healing still takes time. Read on to learn more about ACL reconstruction.

Few injuries end the season faster than torn ACLs. These knee injuries can vary from partial to complete tears, and some require surgical repair to restore proper function.

Andrew D. Pearle, MD, with offices in the Upper East Side of New York City and White Plains, New York, is an accomplished orthopedic knee surgeon who provides expert care to adults and teens. If you have a torn ACL, here’s what you need to know about reconstructive surgery and how long it should take for recovery.

Understanding ACL tears

Your ACL, or anterior cruciate ligament, is the band of soft tissue in the knee that connects your shin and thigh bones. This important ligament provides stability in the joint, which makes it highly vulnerable to sports injuries that stress the knee, especially those involving basketball, football, soccer, and volleyball.

Injuries to the ACL often occur from activities that include:

  • Sudden stopping
  • Changing direction rapidly or “cutting”
  • Pivoting with a firmly planted foot
  • Landing incorrectly after jumping
  • Direct blows to the knee

When you tear your ACL, it’s common to experience pain, a popping sound during the injury, swelling, and knee instability. Anyone can tear their ACL, but it’s more common among inactive women and children, especially those who participate in youth sports.

When to have ACL reconstruction surgery

You may be able to avoid a surgical ACL repair if you lead a relatively inactive lifestyle or engage in activities that don’t put a lot of stress on your knees. However, Dr. Pearle could recommend knee surgery if you have:

  • More than one ligament injury
  • A torn meniscus
  • Knee instability that interferes with everyday activities

ACL reconstruction is also necessary if you’re an athlete or have an active lifestyle and want to continue participating in activities that require cutting, jumping, or pivoting. 

How ACL reconstruction works

During ACL reconstruction, Dr. Pearle removes your torn ligament and replaces it with a healthy new tissue graft, either from your body or a human organ donor. 

To perform your ACL reconstruction, Dr. Pearle uses arthroscopic techniques. This approach combines small incisions, specialized instruments, and fiber optics, all of which enable Dr. Pearle to access your knee joint in the least invasive way possible.

ACL reconstruction varies from patient to patient, depending on the extent of knee damage. However, the most common treatment involves creating small tunnels into your shin and thigh bones. Dr. Pearle uses these channels to place the ACL graft, which he then anchors in place, often with screws. Once in place, the graft acts as scaffolding for new tissue to grow.

After having ACL reconstruction, you can go home the same day with detailed instructions to protect the graft and support the recovery process.

What to expect from ACL surgery

If you tear your ACL, surgery is the only way to repair the ligament. However, a successful recovery takes more than reconstruction surgery.

After your ACL reconstruction, it’s essential to participate in a rehabilitation program. This aspect of your recovery helps restore stability, strength, and range of motion to your knee joint. And, as you heal, your physical therapist can also help identify any factors, such as problems with biomechanics, that may predispose you to reinjury. Identifying these factors can help you avoid future problems.

With proper care, you can usually return to athletics within 6-9 months of ACL surgery, but this can vary depending on the activity and level of competition.

Did you tear your ACL? Learn more about your treatment options by calling 212-774-2878 or booking an appointment online with the practice of Andrew D. Pearle, MD, today.