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Does a Torn ACL Require Surgery?

Does a Torn ACL Require Surgery?
Does a Torn ACL Require Surgery?

Does a Torn ACL Require Surgery?

The ACL is the most commonly injured ligament in the knee.  The ACL is a strong ligament that connects the femur to the tibia, and it helps stabilize the knee when you change direction rapidly or stop suddenly.  It absorbs an incredible amount of stress and is therefore susceptible to tearing. Because of its role, a torn ACL most frequently occurs as a sports injury, especially in those sports involving pivoting or sudden changes in direction. 

Pain, swelling, and stiffness are the most common symptoms of an ACL tear and can be accompanied by a loud popping noise or the feeling of instability in the knee.

If you have torn your ACL, you are probably asking the question - do I need surgery?  What is the best treatment for repair?  The answer to these questions is - it depends.  The treatment for a torn ACL depends on the severity of the tear and the patient’s range of activity.

Severity of Tear: 

Minor tears can be treated with non-surgical methods.  Physical therapy can help strengthen the muscles in the legs and bring stability to the knee while compensating for the torn ACL.  Regenerative medicine may also be a viable treatment when surgery is not indicated.  Full or large tears cannot heal without surgery. 

Range of Activity:

For patients who are not actively involved in sports, non-surgical treatment can be successful.  For patients who are actively involved in sports, surgery is almost always recommended.   An ACL tear in a highly active patient that is only treated through non-surgical means will likely result in future meniscal damage, additional cartilage damage, knee instability, and osteoarthritis.

Although a torn ACL is a common injury, the treatment plan is not common. Treatment for a torn ACL is specific to each patient depending on the severity of the tear and the range of activity.  Because each patient’s injury and circumstances are unique, it is important to have your knee thoroughly evaluated.  Dr. Mithoefer offers the latest techniques in ACL repair. Together, you can determine the best treatment for you and your long-term success. 

Dr. Kai Mithoefer is board certified in both Orthopedic surgery and Orthopedic sports medicine, fellowship trained in Orthopedic Trauma at Harvard and the prestigious Sports Medicine and Shoulder Surgery fellowship at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York.  Dr. Mithoefer is an internationally recognized specialist for joint preservation, has published more than 100 scientific articles and book chapters and is a frequent speaker at national and international orthopedic meetings.

  • American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
  • American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
  • Arthroscopy Association of North America
  • International Cartilage Regeneration & Joint Preservation Society (ICRS)
  • American Academy of Regenerative Medicine