Torn ACL Treatment - Houston, Beaumont, Cypress
The anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, is one of the major ligaments of the knee that is located in the middle of the knee and runs from the femur (thigh bone) to the tibia (shin bone). It prevents the tibia from sliding out in front of the femur. Together with the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), it provides rotational stability to the knee.
How Does an ACL Injury Occur?
An ACL injury is a sports-related injury that happens when the knee gets forcefully twisted or hyperextended. An ACL tear usually occurs with an abrupt directional change with the foot fixed on the ground or when the deceleration force crosses the knee. Changing direction rapidly, stopping suddenly, slowing down while running, landing from a jump incorrectly and direct contact or collision, such as a football tackle can also cause injury to the ACL.
How Do You Know You Tore Your ACL?
When you injure your ACL, you might hear a "popping" sound, and you may feel as though the knee has given out. Within the first two hours after injury, your knee will swell, and you may have knee instability such as a buckling sensation during twisting movements.
Diagnosis of an ACL tear is made by knowing your symptoms, medical history, performing a physical examination of the knee, and performing other diagnostic tests such as X-rays, MRI scans, stress tests of the ligament, and arthroscopy.
ACL Tear Surgery
Treatment options include both non-surgical and surgical methods. Choosing to have ACL reconstruction surgery depends on the degree of your injury and your activity level. Complete ACL ruptures are extremely difficult to recover from. Without ACL surgery, some patients can't participate in sports, and others have trouble even walking. It depends on the severity of the original knee injury, your overall health and the physical demands of your job and life. Tearing your ACL can lead to other injuries to the meniscus, articular cartilage or other ligaments. In this case, patients often require surgery, especially if they have had ACL problems and instability in the past.
Young athletes involved in pivoting sports will most likely require surgery to safely return to sports. The usual surgery for an ACL tear is an ACL reconstruction which tightens your knee and restores its stability. Surgery to reconstruct an ACL is done with an arthroscope using small incisions. These small incisions let your surgeon put a small video camera into your knee that allows them to see your knee joint. They also pump a sterile solution into the joint to help them get a clear view of the tear and give them space to work inside of your joint.
Your doctor will then replace the torn ligament with a tissue graft that can be obtained from your knee (patellar tendon),a bone graft or your hamstring muscle. Your old, torn ACL gets replaced with your new one. Following ACL reconstruction, a rehabilitation program is started to help you to resume a wider range of activities.
If the overall stability of the knee is intact, your doctor may recommend nonsurgical methods. Non-surgical treatment consists of rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE protocol); all assist in controlling pain and swelling. Physical therapy may be recommended to improve knee motion and muscle strength. A knee brace may be needed to help immobilize your knee.
Choosing non-surgical treatment depends on your needs. Athletes tend to choose reconstruction surgery to get back to their sport. Individuals with jobs that involve jumping, pivoting or cutting may also need surgery to return to work. However, patients with no instability problems, children who are still growing, people with more sedentary lifestyles and those who only play low-demand sports may not need surgery.
For these patients, physical therapy is crucial and should begin right away. Specific exercises such as ankle pumps, straight leg raises, heel slides and more can help you increase your range of motion and diminish your pain over time. It's important to recognize that choosing a non-surgical option can result in additional damage to the knee and surrounding cartilage.
Pain Management and Rehab
The purpose of ACL reconstructive surgery is to lessen your pain, return your knee to its normal range of motion and help you return to your sport or normal activity level. The surgery is generally an outpatient surgery, and you will return home the same day. You will keep your knee in a brace and use crutches for the first one to three weeks after surgery. Cold therapy or icing with an ice pack for 20 minutes three times daily is also used at home as a way to decrease swelling and help your pain.
Pain management also consists of prescriptions such as Enteric Coated Aspirin, Naprosyn and Norco. These medications should be taken after eating to avoid any nausea or vomiting. Although the medications help your pain, it's important to watch out for persistent swelling, any abnormal pain, a very limited range of motion and more. Depending on your progression, you should return to your sport or normal physical demands six to nine months after surgery.
If you think you need ACL reconstructive surgery in Houston, Beaumont or Cypress or want to learn more about your options, call our office today at (713) 794-3457.