What happens during anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) knee surgery?

Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction surgery replaces the ligament in the center of your knee with a new ligament. A ligament is a strong band of tissue that attaches one bone to another. The ACL attaches your thighbone (femur) to your shinbone (tibia). It keeps your shinbone in place and keeps your knee from buckling ("giving out") during physical activity. If it's damaged, it will not heal on its own.

Tearing the ACL is a common knee injury, especially in people who do sports that involve running, pivoting, and jumping.

Dr. Scott D. Martin, MD
Orthopedic Surgeon

Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) surgery lasts about two hours and is usually done arthroscopically (a surgical approach that uses miniature scopes and other small instruments inserted through small incisions). After drilling holes in the bone where the ACL attaches, the surgeon inserts either a transplanted tendon from your own patella (kneecap) or hamstring, known as an autograft, or piece of tissue from a donor, called an allograft. The surgeon fits the bone-ends of the tendon into the holes and screws them into place. Newer surgical techniques have allowed surgeons to more precisely place the end of the new tissue inside the joint for greater stability.

Continue Learning about Muscle & Connective Tissue Injuries

What are knee ligament injuries?
Scott D. Martin, MDScott D. Martin, MD
Each year, approximately 200,000 people in the United States injure their anterior cruciate liga...
More Answers
What is the recovery time for ACL reconstruction surgery?
Eastern Idaho Regional Medical CenterEastern Idaho Regional Medical Center
The recovery time after anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction surgery is longer than many ...
More Answers
What are the symptoms of an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury?
National Athletic Trainers' AssociationNational Athletic Trainers' Association
An ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) sprain is characterized by a pop associated with feeling the kne...
More Answers
What is the treatment for an anterior cruciate ligament or ACL injury?
HCA Midwest HealthHCA Midwest Health
The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is one of the most important structures in the knee. It keeps y...
More Answers

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.