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ACL Reconstruction / Knee Reconstruction Recovery & Risks

Risks and Recovery

ACL reconstruction is a low risk procedure, but it requires extensive rehabilitation to get you back to your pre-injury condition.

Recovery

Post-operatively you will spend the night in hospital, with a bandage over your knee and cold compression applied to reduce post operative swelling.  Your pain will be controlled with a combination of local anaesthetic and oral medications.  You will not routinely be in a brace post operatively, but crutches are recommended for the first two weeks to assist with walking.

You will be seen by one of our physiotherapy team in hospital to help with crutches and walking, and to guide your initial rehabilitation.

Phased Rehabilitation

These are general instructions only, and must be tailored to your individual circumstances.

Phase 1 – Rest and Recovery: the initial 2 weeks are to control pain, swelling and discomfort within the knee.  The leg should be kept elevated to avoid swelling, and it should be kept in extension (straight) rather than bent for prolonged periods. Minimal physiotherapy is undertaken during this period as it is important for the swelling and pain to subside prior to strengthening.

Phase 2 – Range of Motion and Strengthening (Weeks 3-6): work on gait normalisation, range of motion, start gentle exercise bike, swimming with pool buoy once wounds healed.

Phase 3 – Neuromuscular Retraining and Strengthening (Weeks 6-12): start straight line running at 6 weeks, progressive strengthening of quads, from 8 weeks start hamstrings strengthening (NOT before), from 8 weeks stop using a pool buoy

Phase 4 – Advanced Retraining (3-6 Months): commence plyometrics, gentle running proprioception drills from 4 months.

Phase 5 – Sport Specific Retraining (6-9 Months): start sport specific training, no playing

Phase 6 – Resumption of Sports (8-9 Months): ease into sports, use FIFA 11 injury prevention program

Dr Slattery’s Full ACL reconstruction rehabilitation protocol can be found here: ACL-Post Op Protocol

Risks

Arthroscopic ACL reconstruction is a low risk operation with excellent clinical outcomes.  Risks specific to ACL reconstruction surgery include (not limited to):

  • Re-Rupture (Risks: females, younger patients, ligament laxity, return to high impact sports)
  • Stiffness
  • Infection (Dr Slattery routinely uses an advanced antibiotic protocol to prevent infection)
  • Arthritis (ACL reconstruction does NOT change the underlying risk of Arthritis associated with ACL injury)
  • Pain
  • Residual Laxity/Instability
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