ACL surgery is a procedure to replace a torn ligament in the knee, specifically the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). It’s usually performed as outpatient surgery, where the torn ACL is replaced with a donor ligament.
Successful ACL reconstruction surgery allows you to return to your normal everyday activities and hobbies, but it can take 6 months or more to fully recover.
After ACL surgery
Straight after your ACL surgery, you’ll have a wound on your knee held closed with stiches or surgical clips. These stiches will be removed by a medical professional after around three weeks, or they’ll disappear naturally if you have dissolvable stitches.
During this period you’ll need to care for your surgery wound and keep it clean, and your healthcare professional will give you advice on how to do this before you leave hospital. There may also be some bruising and swelling around your knee or down your shin, but this should go away after a week or so.
Recovering from ACL surgery
After your surgery your surgeon will advise you on a recovery programme, and you’ll likely be referred to a physiotherapist to help you with movement and exercises. These we’ll be designed to help you start moving and bending your knee and eventually return to walking normally.
First few weeks
Initially you’ll only be able to walk with crutches for the first couple of weeks, and you may need to take painkillers to control discomfort. You might also need an ice pack or similar to help relieve swelling and pain, and you’ll need to keep your leg raised on a cushion when sitting or lying in bed.
If you work from home or have an office job, you may be able to return to work after the first few weeks, but if you have to stand a lot or doing manual labour, it could be several months before you can go back.
Around 6 weeks
After the first few weeks, the pain and swelling should have subsided, and you may be able to move around more and up your physiotherapy exercises. You should be able to start walking without your crutches by this point, and after a few months you’ll be able to take up light exercise and activities that don’t put too much pressure on your knee, such as swimming.
Depending on the advice of your physiotherapy or GP, you may be able start driving again by now, but this will depend on how comfortable you are putting weight on your knee.
After 6 months
Once you pass the 6-month mark, you’ll likely be back to normal and able to walk and play sports as before. You might not feel completely confident doing higher impact activities just yet, and you might need a few months more before you feel 100% again.
ACL surgery at Ramsay Health Care
You can find out more about ACL reconstruction surgery at your nearest Ramsay hospital, or please get in touch with us if you’d like to discuss your options or make an appointment.