What is ACL Knee Surgery

Have you had a sensation in your knee like it’s giving out or buckling?  Or maybe you’ve heard a popping sound – and your knee has started to cause pain and swell.  If so, it could mean that you’ve torn your anterior cruciate ligament – commonly known as the ACL.

Many ACL injuries are a result of playing sports.  Basketball, football, tennis, soccer, gymnastics and skiing often cause the injuries due to quick pivots and sudden changes in direction.  One can tear an ACL with or without contact.

There could be many other reasons for knee pain or any of the other symptoms typically related to an ACL tear, but if the symptoms persist you should see an orthopedist for an examination.  If a torn ACL is not treated, your knee joint will continue to give way, putting you at risk for more injuries to your knee.  Also, there is usually cartilage damage that can lead to osteoarthritis.

Because the ACL is deep inside the knee, diagnosing the condition can be challenging.   Two common physical tests called the Lachman Test and Anterior Drawer Test may help to confirm an ACL injury and its severity.

If the physical tests are inconclusive and more tests are needed, your doctor may order an MRI.  An MRI is nearly 90% accurate in determining whether an ACL has been torn and how badly.   However, MRIs are not as accurate in providing details about a partial tear.  The best way to see a partial tear is through arthroscopy, which is done with a camera probe into the knee.

A torn ACL is usually treated by one or a combination of the following:

  • Arthroscopic reconstruction
  • Physical therapy and strengthening
  • Surgery to reconstruct the ACL


Your orthopedist will review all options with you to determine the appropriate treatment plan to improve your quality of life and reduce the pain.

Remember that not all ACL tears require surgery, but even if yours does, the chances of a full recovery from surgery are good.  The key is to see an orthopedist early on! Make an appointment today!