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Questions to Ask Before ACL Surgery

The ACL is the most commonly injured ligament in the knee. If you have torn your ACL and need surgery, you are not alone. Orthopedic surgeons perform over 100,000 ACL surgeries every year. The journey to recovery from your injury may seem long, but asking questions and knowing what to expect can help put you on a path to success.

Treatment for a torn ACL depends on the severity of the tear and the patient’s activity level, so it’s important to understand your diagnosis and the treatment options available to you.

If surgery is indicated, then knowing what to expect before, during, and after surgery is essential for a successful outcome. Asking lots of questions can help you approach ACL surgery with confidence.

How can I prepare for surgery?

Prior to surgery, physical therapy can help strengthen your knee muscles and prepare your leg for surgery. Eating a healthy, balanced diet can help prepare your body. You can also prepare your home. After surgery, you will be using crutches to get around, so clearing pathways and having meals prepared beforehand can help significantly.

What kind of graft should I use?

There are two different types of grafts that can be used for surgery- an autograft, tissue taken from your own body, or an allograft, tissue from a donor. Both options have benefits for the patient, but usually there is a recommendation based on the circumstances and your desired outcome. For example, allografts should never be used for ACL surgery in children. Talking with your surgeon can help you make the best decision based on your preferences, desired outcomes, and recommendations.

How long will it take to recover?

Recovery is unique to each individual, but there are some milestones you can plan for. Functional milestones like walking without crutches, driving, and returning to school or work usually occur within 2-6 weeks. Other milestones such as returning to training or sports will take 6-12 months. Setting realistic expectations for recovery will help you return to activities and sports safely.

As you begin to think through the process of surgery, use these questions to start a conversation with your surgeon. Make a list of any questions you may have and take it with you to your appointment. Knowing what to expect before, during, and after surgery will give you confidence for the journey ahead and put you on a path for a positive surgical outcome.

About the Author
Anup Shah, MD, FAAOS
Anup Shah, MD

Dr. Anup Shah is a board-certified, fellowship-trained Sports Medicine Orthopedic surgeon specializing in Knee and Shoulder Surgery in Phoenix, Arizona at Banner Health. Dr. Shah uses a patient-centric and an evidence-based approach to help his patients achieve their desired goals.

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