Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injury
Often with knee injures, the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) is damaged or torn. In fact, this type of injury is quite common. Each year, about 300,000 people worldwide undergo surgery to repair a damaged ACL. Women are more susceptible to ACL injuries than men, and studies have shown that the reason for this may be that in sports, women tend to hold their trunks and hips in a more erect posture while performing running and jumping maneuvers.
Most ACL injuries occur during sports or activities that require sudden pivoting, change of direction or rotation of the knee. Symptoms of an ACL injury may include a sudden giving way of the knee, a "pop" at the time of the injury, or a sudden swelling of the knee joint and pain in the knee when walking. When an ACL injury occurs, the knee becomes less stable, and this instability will make sudden pivoting movements difficult. This type of damage to the knee may also make you prone to developing arthritis and cartilage tears. While you still may enjoy daily activities with little discomfort, pivoting activities or sports may prove difficult.
An ACL injury may be treated without surgery through rehabilitation and bracing. This is primarily effective for people who do not participate in pivoting activities or who are willing to give up high-risk sports and focus on low-impact activities like cycling and swimming. Although such a change may eliminate your ability to enjoy the sports and activities you love, it also significantly reduces your chances for further injury. A custom-made brace may also ease the pain associated with an ACL injury.
If the soccer field, tennis court, or ski slopes continue to beckon you after you've suffered an ACL injury, arthroscopic surgery may provide the best treatment option to restore your active lifestyle.
In ACL reconstruction, the torn ligament is replaced with a graft, either from the patient's own body or with donor tissue. The tighter and more secure the graft, the better the result will be for the patient in the long term. New technology has made tighter, more secure grafts possible.
Grafts may be taken from the patient's hamstring, quadriceps, or patella (kneecap) tendon. Donor or cadaver (allograft) tissue may also be used. Screws or other fixation devices anchor the graft and hold it in place.
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