What is ACL Reconstruction?
Arthroscopic anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction is a surgical treatment for a torn ACL. The ACL is a critical ligament in the center of the knee that is responsible for providing stability to the knee. When an ACL tear occurs, one experiences immediate pain, swelling, and instability. Many patients report hearing or feeling a pop in the knee. This injury typically results in the inability to have normal use of the knee without experiencing giving way episodes.
Commonly, an ACL tear occurs when:
- There is a sudden, high energy stop
- When the foot is firmly planted and the body turns while suddenly changing direction
- Landing awkwardly from a jump
These events often occur during sports activities, such as skiing, soccer, football, and basketball.
For patients diagnosed with a torn ACL who wish to resume an active lifestyle, ACL surgery is indicated. In this procedure, the torn ligament is removed and a tendon is used to replace the torn ACL. The tendon that is used to reconstruct the ACL may be harvested from the patient (autograft) or from a deceased donor (allograft). In most cases, Dr. Cunningham recommends an autograft, as you incorporate your own tissue into your knee much better than you incorporate a donor tendon. Given this, there is a significantly higher retear rate when using a donor tendon to reconstruct the ACL.
Dr. Cunningham commonly uses a portion of the quadriceps tendon to reconstruct a torn ACL, as the quad graft is the biggest and the strongest compared to hamstring or a patellar tendon graft, and it also does not cause long term pain at the harvest site as is quite common with a patellar tendon graft. ACL surgery is typically performed arthroscopically. It is an outpatient procedure, with no requirement for an overnight hospital stay. Dr. Cunningham is an ACL surgeon at Vail Summit Orthopedics and Neurosurgery. He is an expert at diagnosing and treating ACL injuries for patients in Vail, Summit County, Aspen, and Denver, CO.