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Arthroscopic Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction


  • Arthroscopic anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction (rebuilding) is surgery to replace your damaged ACL. A ligament is a strong elastic tissue that connects one bone to another. The ACL is located in the knee and connects the tibia (shin bone) to the femur (thigh bone). ACL reconstruction is done when the ligament is ruptured (torn). This is done especially in people active in sports, or those whose work requires strong and stable knees.
    Picture of a normal knee
  • Caregivers replace the injured ACL with a graft. The graft may be a piece of tendon (cord that connects muscles to the bones) or muscle. This may be taken from another part of your body, from a donor (someone who has died), or man-made. During surgery, small incisions (cuts) will be made in your knee. The arthroscope and other tools for surgery will be inserted through these incisions. The surgery may last 2 to 2 and one-half hours.


Take your medicine as directed:

Call your primary healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not working as expected. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a current list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when, how, and why you take them. Take the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency. Throw away old medicine lists.

  • Pain medicine: You may need medicine to take away or decrease pain.
    • Learn how to take your medicine. Ask what medicine and how much you should take. Be sure you know how, when, and how often to take it.
    • Do not wait until the pain is severe before you take your medicine. Tell caregivers if your pain does not decrease.
    • Pain medicine can make you dizzy or sleepy. Prevent falls by calling someone when you get out of bed or if you need help.

Ask for information about where and when to go for follow-up visits:

For continuing care, treatments, or home services, ask for more information.

Ask your caregiver when you should return to have your knee wound checked, and the stitches removed.

Activity guidelines:

  • Do exercises as instructed by your caregiver. Daily knee exercises are important so that in time you will be able to do your usual activities. Avoid hard exercise such as jogging or bicycling right after surgery. Do not do more than the range of motion exercises advised by your caregiver.
  • Do not let your knee get wet unless your caregiver says it is OK. Ask your caregiver when you are allowed to bathe, shower, and swim.
  • Keep your heel raised with a pillow when sitting or lying down.
  • Place an ice pack on your knee for 15 to 30 minutes every hour for up to 24 hours. You can make an ice pack by putting crushed ice in a plastic bag and covering it with a towel. Do not sleep while using the ice pack because you can get frostbite. Do not use it for a longer time than instructed by your caregiver.

Physical therapy:

You may need to see a physical therapist to teach you special exercises. These exercises help improve movement and decrease pain. Physical therapy can also help improve strength and decrease your risk for loss of function.

Using crutches:

You may need to use crutches when walking. Crutches help decrease stress and strain on your knee. Put only as much weight on your leg as advised by your caregiver. Ask your caregiver for more information about how to use crutches.

Wearing a knee brace:

You may need to wear a knee brace after your surgery. A knee brace will help protect your knee and keep it from moving too much so it can heal faster. The brace will be locked in place for a time after surgery.

  • Keep your brace locked while sleeping and doing exercises that make you bear weight. You may remove it once in a while when awake to decrease cramps.
  • Keep the knee brace in a comfortable fit. Do not apply it too tightly.
  • Your caregiver may let you unlock your knee brace during exercises that increase range of motion. This may also be done when doing non-weight bearing exercises. Ask your caregiver for more information about wearing a knee brace.

Wound care:

  • Do not remove the bandage over your wound or get it wet unless your caregiver says it is OK. Keep the bandage clean and dry.
  • Always wash your hands before and after taking care of a wound to prevent spreading infection.
  • Clean the wound as often as ordered by your caregiver. If you cannot reach the wound, ask for help.
  • If you have steri-strips (thin strips of tape) over the incision, do not pull them off. As they start to peel off, let them fall off by themselves.
  • Keep the stitches clean and dry. Do not trim or shorten the ends of your stitches. If they are rubbing on your clothing, you can put a soft gauze bandage between the stitches and your clothes.


  • You have a fever.
  • You have more pain in your knee or trouble moving around even after taking pain medicines.
  • Your skin is itchy, swollen, or has a rash.
  • Your stitches are swollen, red, have pus coming from them, or they have come apart.
  • You have questions or concerns about your injury, surgery, or medicine.


  • You have calf (lower leg) pain.
  • You have trouble breathing or chest pain all of a sudden.
  • You fall and injure the knee that had surgery.
  • Your bandage becomes soaked with blood.
  • Your leg or toes feel numb, tingly, cool to the touch, or look blue or pale.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Arthroscopic Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction (Aftercare Instructions)

Micromedex® Care Notes