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ACL reconstruction

What is ACL reconstruction surgery?

If you have damaged your ACL (anterior cruciate ligament), your specialist consultant may recommend reconstruction surgery.  Undertaking ACL reconstruction can mean reduced pain, improved mobility and stability in your knee and may also mean you can return to increased physical activity, including sports. 

Ready to book now? Get in touch to discuss your needs and decide on the best course of treatment for you.

Ready to book now? Get in touch to discuss your needs and decide on the best course of treatment for you.

Preparing for ACL reconstruction surgery

Before your ACL surgery, you may need to wait for any swelling on the knee to reduce, and for a wider range of movement to return to your knee. Your consultant may also recommend strengthening the muscles at the front and back of the thighs (quadriceps and hamstrings), in order for a better recovery outcome. If so, you may be given a set of simple exercises to complete regularly in advance of your surgery.   

Prior to your procedure, your consultant will undertake pre-operative assessment to make sure you’re ready for surgery. They may ask you about any anaesthetics you’ve had previously, and whether you experienced any side effects. You will also receive information on what to eat and drink on the day of the surgery, medicines management, recovery and rehabilitation. Anaesthetics are usually safer with an empty stomach, so you’ll normally be asked not to eat anything several hours before your operation.   

You’re likely to experience reduced mobility after the procedure, so ask a friend or a family member to help take you to and from the clinic and to provide help in the days and weeks afterwards.   

What happens during ACL reconstruction surgery?

There are different methods that can be used to reconstruct the ACL, the most common being to use a tendon from elsewhere in your body to replace the ACL.   

You’ll receive either a general anaesthetic, meaning you’ll be totally unconscious throughout the procedure, or a spinal anaesthetic, where you’ll be conscious but unable to feel pain. Your anaesthetist will talk through the different anaesthetics with you in advance.  

After you have been anaesthetised, your surgeon will then use an arthroscope to examine the inside of your knee and check your ACL. They will also look at any other damage to the knee, and make a decision as to whether to repair this during surgery, or after the operation.  

After confirming the ACL is torn, the surgeon will then start to remove the graft tissue that will be used to repair it. Graft tissue can come from a number of places, the most commonly used are the patellar tendon and the hamstring tendons. Sometime the tissue can also come from a donor, or a synthetic graft. The graft tissue is removed, cut to size and then positioned in the knee, secured to the thigh and shin bones.  

Once the tissue is secured, your surgeon will test its strength and range of motion to ensure your knee will be kept stable. When the surgeon is satisfied, the incisions will be closed and dressings applied. You’ll then be moved to a recovery area to come round from your anaesthetic.  

The operation normally takes between 1 and 1 and a half hours in total, and is often done early in the morning to allow time for recovery.  

Recovering from an ACL reconstruction

Due to the complex nature of the surgery, recovery from ACL reconstruction can take time, sometimes up to 6 months. This may have a greater impact on people who have an active job for example, so it’s important to talk through the options with your consultant.   

After surgery, your consultant will work with you in order to develop a suitable exercise routine to ensure your knee heals effectively. You may receive a referral to a specialist physiotherapist for post-operative rehabilitation.  

Complications and risks

An ACL reconstruction is considered a very safe procedure, but likes all surgery there is a risk of complications.  

You may experience short-term symptoms such as bruising and swelling, and also stiffness and discomfort. These normally improve fairly quickly over the days after the procedure.  

Serious complications are far less common, and less than 1 in 100 people will experience issues such as: 

  • A blood clot in a limb, also known as deep vein thrombosis 
  • Infection within the joint or at the site of the tissue graft 
  • Knee pain – this is more common for people who have their patellar tendon used as the source of the graft tissue 
  • Long-term weakness and stiffness in the knee  

Your orthopaedic surgeon will discuss take the time to discuss these risks with you prior to the surgery, and there will be the opportunity to ask further questions if needed. 

Ways to pay

Paying for yourself

Healthshare provides access to the highest quality care giving you the opportunity to access the very best treatment, facilities and consultants. Healthcare the way you want it, when you need it.

Spread the cost

A fixed term loan, provided by our partners Chrysalis Finance, will allow you to spread the cost of treatment and allow you to pay in monthly instalments over a time period to suit you.

Medical insurance

If you have private medical insurance you can get referred to a Healthshare Clinic for the very best treatment. Contact your insurance provider to pre-authorise your treatment today.

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