Rebuilding the ACL: A Step-by-Step Guide to Reconstruction Surgery

The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is a crucial stabilizer within your knee joint. It can significantly impact your stability and mobility when it sustains a tear. ACL reconstruction surgery commonly replaces the torn ligament with a healthy graft, restoring knee function. Let’s delve into the steps involved in this procedure.

Pre-Surgery Preparations

Before your ACL reconstruction procedure, your doctor will schedule a comprehensive evaluation. This involves discussing your medical history, symptoms, and activity level. Imaging tests like X-rays and MRIs will be conducted to assess the extent of the tear and plan the surgery accordingly.

Your doctor will also discuss the type of anesthesia used during the procedure. General anesthesia will put you to sleep, while regional anesthesia numbs only the area around your knee. You’ll be instructed to refrain from certain activities and medications leading up to the surgery to optimize the outcome. ACL reconstruction procedure preparation is vital for a successful surgery.

The ACL Reconstruction Procedure

ACL reconstruction surgery is typically performed arthroscopically, a minimally invasive technique. Your surgeon will make several small incisions around your knee during the procedure. A tiny camera and surgical instruments are inserted through these incisions, allowing the surgeon to visualize the inside of your joint on a monitor.

The next step involves harvesting a graft, a piece of healthy tissue that replaces the torn ACL. The most common graft options include the patellar tendon or hamstring tendons from your body (autograft). In some cases, donor tissue (allograft) might be used. The surgeon will carefully remove the chosen tendon and prepare it for placement within your knee. ACL reconstruction procedure utilizes an autograft or allograft to rebuild the ligament.

Once the graft is ready, the surgeon will drill tunnels into your shinbone (tibia) and thighbone (femur) to create anchor points for the new ligament. The graft is then meticulously passed through these tunnels and securely fixed in place using screws, buttons, or other fixation devices. The surgeon will meticulously assess the tension and stability of the reconstructed ligament before closing the incisions. ACL reconstruction procedure involves meticulous placement and fixation of the graft.

Recovery and Rehabilitation

Following ACL reconstruction surgery, your knee will be bandaged and possibly placed in a brace for initial support and pain management. You’ll begin physical therapy soon after surgery to regain strength, flexibility, and range of motion in your knee. The rehabilitation process is crucial for restoring full function and preventing future complications. It typically involves a progressive program that gradually increases intensity over several months. Dedication to physical therapy is essential for a successful recovery after the ACL reconstruction procedure.

Risks and Complications

While ACL reconstruction surgery is a successful procedure, it carries some inherent risks and potential complications like any surgery. These can include:

  • Infection: As with any surgery, there’s a slight risk of infection at the incision site. Proper sterile technique during surgery and diligent post-surgical wound care can significantly minimize this risk.

  • Bleeding: Bleeding during or after surgery can occur, but the surgeon usually controls it.

  • Blood clots: Following surgery, blood clots can develop in the deep veins of your legs. Compression stockings and blood-thinning medications can help prevent this complication.

  • Graft rupture: There’s a slight chance the newly placed graft could tear again. This risk can be minimized with proper surgical technique and diligent adherence to rehabilitation protocols.

  • Stiffness: Scarring and inflammation after surgery can lead to stiffness in your knee. Consistent physical therapy exercises are crucial to maintain flexibility and range of motion.

When to Consult a Doctor

If you experience any of the following symptoms after ACL reconstruction surgery, it’s essential to consult your doctor promptly:

  • Fever or chills

  • Increased redness, swelling, or pain at the incision site

  • Drainage from the incision site

  • Severe knee pain or instability

  • Inability to bear weight on your knee

Benefits of ACL Reconstruction Surgery

ACL reconstruction surgery offers several significant benefits for individuals with a torn ACL:

  • Improved Stability: A reconstructed ACL significantly enhances knee stability, reducing the risk of giving way or buckling during activities.

  • Enhanced Mobility: By restoring knee stability, ACL reconstruction surgery improves your range of motion and flexibility, allowing for a more remarkable ability to participate in desired activities.

  • Reduced Pain: Persistent pain due to a torn ACL can be significantly alleviated after successful ACL reconstruction surgery.

  • Prevention of Further Damage: A torn ACL left untreated can increase the risk of damage to other knee structures, such as the meniscus and cartilage.


ACL reconstruction surgery is a safe and effective procedure for treating a torn ACL. HipKneeOrtho, a leading orthopedic practice, can provide expert guidance and care throughout the entire process, from pre-surgical evaluation to rehabilitation. If you’re experiencing knee instability due to an ACL tear, consult a qualified orthopedic surgeon to discuss if ACL reconstruction surgery is the right option.


  • Can I walk after ACL reconstruction surgery?

 Yes, with the help of crutches initially. You’ll gradually progress to full weight-bearing as your recovery progresses.

  • How long does recovery from ACL reconstruction surgery take? 

Full recovery can take up to a year, depending on the severity of the injury and your dedication to rehabilitation.


  • Will I be able to return to my previous level of activity after surgery? In most cases, you can return to your desired activity level with proper rehabilitation.