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Knee Ligament Repair at Our Los Angeles Center

What Is a Ligament?

A ligament is a piece of tough, connective tissue that connects bone to other bone. Some of the most commonly injured ligaments are those of the knee, including the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), lateral collateral ligament (LCL) and the medial collateral ligament (MCL). These four ligaments work together to connect the thigh bones to the bones in your lower leg.

One of the most common ligament injuries is to your ACL. An estimated 95,000 people experience ACL injuries each year, and women are more likely than men to injure their ACLs. Injuries to any ligament in the body can be problematic because they create instability in the joint, and because the ligaments no longer support the joint, you can have difficulty bearing weight on the affected joint.

Ligament injuries are not always apparent when they occur. However, they often happen on the playing field when a player suddenly alters his position with a pivoting or twisting motion. Landing too hard on a knee can also lead to a ligament tear. Examples of symptoms associated with a ligament tear include:

  • Difficulty bearing weight on the knee joint
  • Sudden and/or severe pain
  • Looseness in the joint
  • Loud popping or snapping at the time of injury
  • Swelling in the joint where the injury occurred

 

Your physician may use a variety of testing methods to definitively diagnose a ligament injury, including a physical examination and imaging scan, such as an x-ray or a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan.

About Ligament Repair

While some ligaments can heal on their own, others like the ACL or PCL never heal once injured or torn. For this reason, surgical reconstruction is typically your only treatment option should you wish to restore strength and stability to your leg. The choice for surgery often depends upon your individual activity goals and how much knee joint instability you are willing to deal with on a daily basis.

If you wish to restore function and stability, your surgeon can perform arthroscopic knee ligament repair. This involves placing you under general anesthesia, which means placing you under a deep sleep where you will feel no pain during the surgery. Your physician will make several small incisions around the knee that are roughly one-fourth of an inch in length and insert an arthroscope, which is a thin, flexible tube with a small camera on the end. The arthroscope allows your surgeon to visualize the inner portion of your knee.

Your surgeon will utilize either a tendon graft from your own body or from a donor to repair the injured ligament. Your surgeon will remove the damaged ligament and place the new ligament using a guidewire through which the new ligament is threaded. After carefully securing the new ligament in place, the surgeon will remove all instruments and close the incisions with stitches or surgical tape.

This procedure is similar to repairing ligaments in other areas of the body, such as the shoulder.

Ligament Repair Recovery

Ligament repair used to require a large incision to access the inner ligaments before arthroscopy procedures were introduced. Making smaller incisions offers several benefits, including:

  • Smaller surgical scar
  • Less post-operative pain
  • Less bleeding
  • Less infection risk

 

However, your physician will discuss risks associated with the surgery with you and recommend ways to minimize these risks. Redness, fever, pain and swelling can be expected following surgery, but should minimize with time.

One important aspect of ligament repair is undergoing physical therapy following surgery. A physical therapist can help you perform exercises that strengthen the muscles around your ligaments and restore flexibility and function. You can expect at least six weeks of recovery time, but can return to light work within a few days of the procedure.

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