Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Tears Surgical Guide

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Knowing what to expect for ACL surgery is key for a healthy surgery and recovery. Our sports medicine specialists are committed to providing excellent care to help you throughout your journey.

Preoperative care

Once you have decided to have an operation to treat your torn ACL, a member of our team will schedule your surgery. Together, you will set a date for the surgery and discuss the surgery location will occur, taking into account convenience for you and your loved ones. Prior to your surgery, you will be referred to a rehabilitation facility that is convenient for you. During preoperative rehabilitation, you will be instructed on walking as normally as possible, decreasing swelling in your knee, getting your knee to straighten out all the way, and getting as much bend back in your knee as possible.

Your preoperative therapy will:

  • Decrease swelling
  • Increase range of motion
  • Improve your gait so you walk without a limp
  • Increase the strength in your leg
  • Educate you on postoperative exercises
  • Educate you on walking with crutches

Your rehabilitation team will discuss these things with you and show you exercises that will help you get ready for surgery. These exercises should be done in your therapy session as scheduled and at home on a daily basis. In order to decrease your swelling, you should use an ice pack and elevate your leg for 20 minutes, 3 to 5 times per day. All of the exercises you learn prior to surgery will make your postoperative therapy easier.


Night before surgery
Be sure and eat a filling dinner. You cannot eat or drink anything after midnight.

Day of surgery
Arrive at the facility about 90 minutes prior to surgery.

After your surgery
After surgery, you will be evaluated by the anesthesiologist and recovery room nurses and will be discharged once you are alert, medically stable, and are comfortable using crutches. Most patients are discharged within an hour following surgery.

Medication: You will be given a prescription that will help with pain control.

Leave your dressings on until instructed by your physician to remove them. LEAVE THE TAPE STRIPS OVER YOUR INCISIONS. These will stay on for one to two weeks following your surgery and will slowly peel off.

Your physician will let you know when you can begin showering. DO NOT soak in the bathtub or pool for 14 days to avoid infection and excessive scarring. Icing: Icing is very important to decrease the swelling and pain and to improve your mobility. After 24 hours, continue to use the cuff or ice at least three times a day, for 20 minutes each time. 

Weight Bearing:
Your physician will give you specific instructions about putting weight on your leg following your surgery.

Rest and elevate your leg for the first 24 hours by placing a pillow under your calf/ankle. Continue to elevate your knee above your heart as much as possible for the first six weeks. It is very important to get your knee as straight as possible, as soon as possible.

Call your surgeon immediately if you have:

  • Severe pain that is not relieved by your medication
  • Temperature over 101.5°
  • Redness or increased swelling of your knee

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