The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is one of four main ligaments found in the knee, which provides stability and support for the joint. The ACL is crucial to ensuring the knee does not move beyond the boundaries of the joint’s natural range of motion.
When the ACL tears, it causes severe pain and immobility. During high-intensity running sports, tearing most commonly occurs due to an abrupt stop or pivoting with one foot planted. While it is less common, a traumatic blow to the knee, such as a tackle in football, can also cause the ACL to stretch beyond its means and tear.
Symptoms of an ACL Tear
Most athletes that injure the ACL can identify the incident that caused the condition. Many patients report a 'popping' sound at the instance of the tear, and feel a sensation that the knee has given out from underneath them. Instability follows, with the knee being unable to carry the patient's weight. Within the ACL, a blood vessel tears at the instance of the injury, causing the knee to fill with blood. The result is an extremely painful, swollen knee with limited range of motion.
Diagnosing ACL Injuries
To confirm the presence of a torn ACL, Dr. Kruse will perform a series of tests on the knee. Imaging tests, such as an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) are often used to check for evidence of a torn ACL or injury to other components of the knee, such as the meniscus or articular cartilage. Dr. Kruse will observe the knee's flexion through orthopedic tests, such as the Lachman test, to confirm the presence of a torn ACL.
Conservative Treatment for ACL Tears
Not every ACL tear requires surgical intervention. Oftentimes, patients with minor ACL injuries are able to return to near-previous levels of activity by managing the pain and proactively avoiding activities that cause instability.
Conservative solutions include:
- RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation)
- Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation
- Bracing to prevent instability
Knee Arthroscopy for ACL Surgery
Severe ACL tears generally require what is known as ACL reconstruction. ACL reconstruction involves replacing the ACL with a substitute graft made of tendon, commonly taken from the patellar tendon, hamstring tendon, or quadriceps tendon. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, patients treated with surgical reconstruction of the ACL have long-term success rates of 82-95%.
Knee surgery to correct a torn ACL is typically performed arthroscopically, as it can provide patients with numerous benefits associated with minimally invasive surgery. Compared to open surgery, knee arthroscopy allows patients to heal in a significantly shorter amount of time, allowing athletes to return to the playing field in a number of weeks. Additionally, because knee arthroscopy requires a smaller incision compared to open surgery, the procedure produces significantly less scarring and less blood loss, translating to a less painful post-operative recovery period.
ACL Tear Treatment in Minnesota: Twin Cities Orthopaedics
Dr. Jay Kruse is committed to excellence, and pledges to provide his patients with the highest quality of orthopedic care possible. Dr. Kruse specializes in sports medicine, and continues to advance his knowledge on the subject through a variety of continuing education courses and seminars. Dr. Kruse focuses on applying cutting edge technologies in day-to-day practice to make surgery less painful and help ensure a speedier recovery.