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ACL Reconstruction vs ACL Repair

Role of ACL

The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) runs diagonally in the middle of the knee. The ACL is a primary stabilizer of the knee and serves many important functions.  Without an intact ACL, the knee joint may become unstable and have a tendency to give out or buckle.  Unfortunately, the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury is among the most common orthopedic injuries, especially for youth athletes.

Like many Sports Medicine Surgeons, our team has a passion for preventing ACL injuries and improving outcomes after ACL surgery. Thanks to technology advancements in orthopedics, new techniques and minimally invasive procedures continue to be introduced.  Additionally, regenerative medicine continues to show promising results in orthopedics. The body’s natural cells, tissue and blood to enhance healing has caught the interest of patient and surgeons alike.

ACL Reconstruction – Traditional Method

For most athletes, surgical intervention is recommended for athletes to return to sport. Up until recently, ACL reconstruction was the gold standard for ACL surgery. The ACL is reconstructed using a piece of tissue taken from another part of your body (autograft) and used to create a new ligament. Common grafts used for ACL reconstruction are hamstring tendon, quadriceps tendon, or patellar tendon. Your surgeon will select the graft type based on each patient’s individual situation.

ACL reconstruction surgery has been very successful. However, some surgeons believe ACL reconstruction may not be the ideal solution or only option for all ACL injuries.

ACL Repair

Some ligaments have the potential to heal without surgical intervention. For instance, ankle sprain injuries do not usually require surgical intervention. The location and environment of the ACL complicates the natural healing of this ligament.  As technology and advancements in medicine occur, new solutions are able to overcome past challenges.

Recently, orthopedic surgeons have been investigating options to repair a partially torn ACL. In an ACL repair situation, the native ACL is repaired using sutures.  This very strong suture device is used to repair the native ACL and restore knee stability. This suture device in the location of a normal ACL is used to hold the alignment of the knee joint in proper position while the ligament heals.

To support healing, the repair is often augmented with biological byproducts. See more on Platelet Rich Plasma, PRP injections.

ACL Repair vs ACL Reconstruction

Which is right for you?  ACL repair is not an option for every patient and not performed by all orthopedic surgeons. Once the ACL is visualized, typically through MRI, your surgeon can determine if your ACL can be repaired. If repair may be an option for the patient at the time of surgery, this is discussed during the pre-operative visit. There are many factors that go into deciding if repair vs reconstruction is appropriate, including type of tear, age, activity level, and tissue quality. Most ACL repairs are done in an acute timeframe.

ACL repair and reconstruction have a similar post-operative recovery timeframe with ACL repair having a slightly quicker return to play post-operative protocol. This is due to the surgery being less invasive.

Both Dr. Daggett and Dr. Witte specialize in ACL repairs and ACL reconstruction.

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ACL repair
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