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10 Essential ACL Reconstruction Surgery Facts

Dr Andrew Dutton - 10 Essential ACL Reconstruction Surgery Facts
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A Comprehensive Guide to ACL Reconstruction

An anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury can present several challenges for anyone, both physically and emotionally. So if you’re grappling with an ACL injury, it’s no wonder you may be considering reconstruction surgery, especially having tried all other non-invasive treatments.

Addressing the challenges of incurring an ACL injury often requires a combination of medical treatment, physical therapy, and lifestyle adjustments. Moreover, maintaining a positive attitude and working closely with healthcare professionals are vital to achieving a successful recovery.

To make an informed decision, it’s crucial to have accurate and comprehensive information. In this blog article, we’ll delve into 10 essential facts about ACL reconstruction surgery, providing you with the knowledge you need to make the soundest choice for your situation.

1. Understanding The ACL

The anterior cruciate ligament is one of four primary ligaments in the knee joint. It plays a crucial role in stabilising the knee by preventing the lower leg bone (tibia) from moving excessively forward in relation to the thigh bone (femur).

A/Professor Andrew Dutton Acl Ligament Illustration

2. What It Means To Incur An ACL Injury

People who are affected by ACL injuries, mostly athletes, face a multitude of obstacles — physically and emotionally — as they navigate their healing process. Some of the key challenges include:

  • Pain and swelling: Initial pain and swelling can be quite significant, making it difficult to move or bear weight on the affected leg.
  • Loss of stability: An ACL injury can lead to knee instability, causing the joint to give way or buckle during certain movements. This can limit your ability to participate in sports and daily activities.
  • Limited range of motion:The injury can cause stiffness and a limited range of motion in the knee, which may impact the ability to perform everyday tasks.
  • Relatively lengthy recovery time:ACL injuries often require surgery and extensive rehabilitation, which can take anywhere from 6 to 12 months, depending on the individual and the severity of the injury, which can be a significant emotional and financial burden.
  • Psychological impact: The injury and recovery process can lead to feelings of frustration, anxiety, depression, or fear of re-injury, which may affect the individual’s overall mental health.
  • Risk of arthritis: An ACL injury can increase the risk of developing osteoarthritis in the affected knee later in life, potentially leading to pain, stiffness, and loss of function.
  • Re-injury risk: Those who have had an ACL injury are at a higher risk of re-injuring the same ligament or injuries to other structures in the knee, such as the meniscus or other ligaments.
  • Impact on athletic performance: Particularly for athletes, an ACL injury can be a significant setback, affecting their ability to perform at their previous level. Returning to competitive sports may take time, and some may not be able to regain their pre-injury performance.
  • Modification of activities: Individuals may need to modify their activities or give up certain sports or hobbies to protect their knee and prevent further injury.

3. Causes Of ACL Injuries

ACL injuries often occur during sports that involve sudden stops, changes in direction, or direct contact, such as soccer, basketball, and skiing. These movements can cause the ACL to partially or completely tear, resulting in symptoms like pain, swelling, and instability in the knee joint.

4. Ideal Candidates For ACL Reconstruction Surgery

Patients with a complete ACL tear and knee instability during daily activities or sports are good candidates for ACL reconstruction surgery. The procedure is also recommended for those with a partial tear experiencing ongoing instability or individuals looking to return to high-level athletic activities.

A/Professor Andrew Dutton Ligament Reconstruction Illustration

5. Graft Options For ACL Reconstruction

During surgery, the torn ligament is replaced with a graft, either an autograft or an allograft. Autografts are harvested from the patient’s own body, such as the patellar tendon, hamstring tendon, or quadriceps tendon. Allografts, on the other hand, are obtained usually from a deceased registered organ donor. Each graft type has its own advantages and disadvantages, which should be discussed with the orthopaedic surgeon to determine the best choice for the individual patient.

6. The Surgical Procedure

ACL reconstruction surgery is typically performed arthroscopically, which is a minimally invasive approach that involves small incisions and camera-guided instruments. After removing the damaged ligament, the surgeon drills holes in the femur and tibia to anchor the graft, securing it using screws or other fixation devices.

A/Professor Andrew Dutton Knee Arthroscopy Illustration

7. Anesthesia And Duration

General anaesthesia is usually administered for ACL reconstruction surgery, rendering the patient unconscious during the procedure. The surgery generally takes between 1 to 2 hours, with the specific duration depending on factors like graft choice and an individual’s anatomy.

8. Risks And Complications

As with any surgery, there are potential risks and complications to ACL reconstruction, including infection, blood clots, graft failure, and stiffness. However, the overall risk of complications is relatively low. Choosing an experienced surgeon and adhering to postoperative care instructions can further minimise these risks.

9. Postoperative Care

Postoperative care is crucial for a successful recovery. Immediately after surgery, patients may require pain medication, ice application, and elevation of the affected leg to manage pain and swelling. Wearing a knee brace and using crutches may also be necessary to protect the joint and facilitate mobility. Again, the best course of action is to follow the doctor’s orders to the letter.

10. Recovery And Rehabilitation

Recovery from ACL reconstruction surgery varies based on factors like age, overall health, and commitment to rehabilitation. Physical therapy plays a vital role in regaining strength, flexibility, and stability in the knee joint. Full recovery can take anywhere from 6 to 12 months. A comprehensive rehabilitation program typically includes:

  • Range of motion exercises: Initiated within the first week after surgery, these exercises help restore knee flexibility and prevent stiffness.
  • Strengthening exercise: Targeting the quadriceps, hamstrings, and other surrounding muscles, these exercises help support the knee joint and facilitate a return to normal activities.
  • Balance and proprioception training: Essential for improving stability and coordination, exercises like these help restore normal knee function following a surgery.

Selecting The Ideal ACL Surgeon

Understanding the essential facts about ACL reconstruction surgery is key in making the right choices and ultimately deciding whether it is right for you. As with any medical procedure, if you’re considering ACL reconstruction surgery, the best course of action is to consult with a qualified healthcare professional to discuss your specific situation and treatment options.

Choosing the right doctor is crucial as it directly impacts the success of the procedure and your overall recovery. With a trained and experienced orthopaedic surgeon, you can rest assured that proper surgical techniques are employed, minimising potential complications and reducing re-injury risks.

Additionally, a knowledgeable doctor can guide you through the rehabilitation process, tailoring your recovery plan to your specific needs and goals. If you need more information about ACL injuries or ACL reconstructive surgery, please book a consultation with A/Professor Andrew Dutton or fill up the form below. You may also call us at (+65) 6836 8000, and we would be happy to answer your questions.

A/Professor Andrew Quoc Dutton Orthopaedic & Sports Clinic Insurance

The A/Professor Andrew Quoc Dutton Orthopaedic & Sports Clinic offers minimally invasive and surgical treatments for sports-related injuries and orthopaedic conditions. To aid in the expenses that you may incur, we accept a number of corporate and international insurance. If you have any of the insurance plans below, please let us know when you book an appointment with us. If you need further assistance, you may drop us an e-mail at or call us at (+65) 6836 8000.
  • AIA Health Insurance
  • Alliance Healthcare
  • AXA International Exclusive (IE)/ IE Plus
  • Aviva Myshield
  • Cigna International
  • Fullerton Health
  • Great Eastern Life/ Live Great
  • Integrated Health Plans (IHP)
  • MHC Medical Network
  • NTUC Income
  • Parkway Shenton Insurance/ iXchange
  • Raffles Health Insurance

Get the quality orthopaedic healthcare you deserve. Get in touch with our team today!

About A/Professor Andrew Quoc Dutton

A/Professor Dutton, also known as, has been in clinical practice since 1996 after graduating from Marist College, Canberra and the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia. A/Professor Dutton has worked at the Prince of Wales Hospital, Sydney, and the St. George Hospital, Sydney, before completing his orthopaedic surgery training in Singapore. He is currently an associate professor of orthopaedic surgery at the National University of Singapore (NUS).

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