ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) Surgery Basics
By Sports Medicine Oregon | Portland Orthopaedic Surgeons
ACL Reconstruction Procedure
You are having an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction. Surgical repair seeks to correct mechanical instability of the knee joint.
One incision is made in the front of your knee from which tendons are harvested. These tendons are used to serve as the new ACL. Two tunnels are drilled in the bone and this new ACL is attached to both ends.
Your surgery will take approximately one to two hours. You will wake up in the recovery room where your progress will be observed for about an hour. Your family or friends may visit you here.
Preparing for ACL Surgery
You should not have anything to eat or drink 8 hours prior to your surgery check in. All medications should be discussed before your surgery takes place. Most medications can be taken the day of surgery, following the procedure.
If you are diabetic, or have any other concerns about medications, please discuss this with the surgeon as special arrangements may be necessary. The anesthesiologist will try to speak with you the night before to discuss anesthesia.
Should this call be missed, you will speak to the anesthesiologist at the bedside before your procedure begins. Please wear loose clothing. Please have the correct date, time and location of your surgery confirmed before the date.
You will need someone to drive you home and accompany you for the next 24 hours.
After ACL Surgery
You will have a brace in place that will secure and limit the activity of your leg until you are seen at your first post-operative visit the following week. Please keep the brace locked straight while you walk, but unlock the brace and work on gaining knee motion the rest of the time.
You are weightbearing as tolerated by your pain and can use crutches until you feel comfortable weightbearing. You will also have a cold pack that is attached to a cooling unit which you may use according to your tolerance.
Please be aware of the skin beneath the cooling pad and protect it with a thin cloth or towel to avoid burning or other skin irritation.
You will have a pain pump. This is a small handheld device filled with numbing medicine that is attached to a catheter that your surgeon placed in the knee at the time of surgery.
You should depress the button every four to six hours to control pain. You must remove this catheter from your knee 48 hours after surgery. To do this, lift up the bandages and the clear tape securing the catheter.
Gently pull the catheter until it is removed from the skin and discard the entire device in the trash. Some drainage from the pump site is normal. Apply pressure for a few minutes and then cover the site with a band-aid.
After removal of the pain pump, you may shower.
No bathing, soaking or swimming until the incisions are completely healed (7-10 days).
You will have a scheduled post-operative visit in a week to 10 days following your procedure. At that time, the surgeon will meet with you and discuss your surgery findings, pertinent information, future prognosis and rehabilitation plan.
We will also give you recommendations regarding activity and limitations. Usually, we will check your progress once every month.
You are encouraged to call our office with any questions that you may have after the procedure. You should call immediately should you develop a temperature greater than 101 F, numbness, tingling or calf pain in the operative leg, excessive drainage or excessive bleeding from the incisions, nausea or vomiting, uncontrolled pain or any other symptoms that you have concerns about.
Patients older than 20 are asked to take 1 full sized aspirin (325mg) for 5-7 days following surgery to prevent blood clots. If you are allergic to aspirin or have a medical reason not to take aspirin, please let us know.