ACL Reconstruction Surgery Overview

The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is a band of collagen that helps to stabilize the knee joint and is one of the most common ligaments to be injured. The ACL is often stretched or torn during a sudden twisting motion (when the feet stay planted one way, but the knees turn the other way). Skiing, soccer, basketball, and football are sports that have a higher risk of ACL injuries, but it can happen even without contact in a sport. Also, because of their build, women have a significantly greater risk of ACL injury than men.

After an ACL injury, you may be unable to do normal activities that involve twisting or turning at the knee and the joint may even buckle or "give-way."

If the ACL is only partially torn, you may not need to have a surgery. You may be prescribed an exercise program to strengthen surrounding muscles and a brace to protect the knee during activity. Immediate medical treatment for an ACL injury can include:

  • Rest
  • Ice, to reduce swelling
  • Compression using a bandage or brace
  • Keeping the leg elevated
  • Pain relievers

Longer-term treatment for an ACL tear can include:

  • Muscle-strengthening exercises
  • Knee brace
  • Limitations on activity

If the injury is more significant, you may need ACL reconstruction surgery to repair the joint.

What is ACL Reconstruction Surgery?

After tests have been completed to determine the extent of the damage, ACL reconstruction surgery may be necessary. A successful surgery will tighten your knee and restores its stability, which helps you avoid further injury.

The surgery to correct a torn ACL involves replacing the ligament with a piece of healthy tendon. A tendon from the kneecap or hamstring, for example, is grafted into place to hold the knee joint together. The tendon graft may come from another area near the knee or from an organ donor.

ACL Treatment at Brigham and Women’s Hospital

Orthopaedic surgeons in the Orthopaedic Department at BWH provide unique, innovative and comprehensive diagnosis, treatment and management for ACL injuries and a wide spectrum of other orthopaedic conditions and injuries.

The Advanced Center for Cartilage Repair, Shoulder, and Sports Injury at BWH is a first of its kind center in New England. Our staff is experienced in the most advanced treatments of ligament and cartilage injuries, joint preservation, and total joint replacements to the knee as well as hip and shoulder.

Bone and Joint Care at Brigham and Women’s Hospital

The Orthopaedic & Arthritis Center at BWH is one of the most highly regarded orthopaedic and joint disease research and treatment programs in the world. Comprehensive and innovative bone and joint care is the foundation of the Center, beginning nearly a century ago when one of our founding hospitals, the Robert Breck Brigham Hospital, became the first teaching hospital in the country wholly devoted to arthritis and related diseases.

Today, the Center – a collaboration of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and the Division of Rheumatology, Immunology and Allergy - is known for its pioneering team of physicians and researchers dedicated to doing everything possible for our patients while helping to develop and apply the most advanced treatments for bone and joint diseases and conditions.

Patient- and Family-centered Care
BWH has long been committed to not only the care of our patients but also the many other needs that they and their families have. This philosophy of patient- and family-centered care involves systems and services that emphasize healing in a comfortable, relaxed environment.

Quality of Patient Care
BWH is committed to providing all of our patients with the safest, highest-quality, most-satisfying care possible and follow established protocols that have been shown to improve patient outcomes. Our Inpatient Satisfaction Survey, sent to patients’ to assess their total care experience, helps us to monitor what we are doing well and areas for improvement. We pride ourselves in the Quality of Patient Care we provide and how we are measured compared with other hospitals.

Brigham and Women’s Hospital Orthopaedic Treatment Team

Year after year, our Orthopaedic Services  - working closely with colleagues in Rheumatology - are ranked among the top programs in the country by U.S. News & World Report.

Additional Resource

Contact Us

If you believe you should have an evaluation and would like to schedule an appointment with one of our orthopaedic experts, call 1-800-294-9999 to speak to one of our knowledgeable coordinators who can help to connect you to the doctor that best meets your needs.