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After ACL Reconstruction Surgery

Immediately after ACL reconstruction surgery, you will be taken to the recovery area and monitored to make sure you do not have any complications from the surgery and the anesthesia.

When you are ready to be discharged from the hospital, your surgeon and caregivers will review with you what you need to do immediately and what things to watch out for related to the actual surgery.

Your discharge instructions will typically include:

  • Instructions for the care of your surgical site incisions, and for the use of crutches and braces or stabilization devices
  • Information on when to call the doctor

If you have concerns about how you are healing or have signs of infection, call your doctor right away. Things to look for include:

  • Blood soaking through the bandages
  • Discharge coming from the incision
  • Swelling or pain in your calf
  • Fever above 101°F
  • Pain that does not go away with medication

First Two Weeks After Surgery

You may need someone to help you when you first go home from ACL surgery and expect to be out of work a few days to a few weeks, depending on how physically demanding your job is. For the first couple weeks after surgery you will need to rest and care for the incision site. You will be on crutches and not allowed to bear weight on your knee. In most cases, crutches are necessary for the first four weeks after your surgery.

You can usually move your knee immediately after surgery, but it might be painful. Your doctor will give you some exercises to keep the blood flowing in your leg and to help prevent blood clots. It is important that you work on quad sets. Quad sets will assure your knee is fully straight and you won’t develop a contracture later on. Your doctor will also send you home with medication or advice for managing pain.

Additionally, you will likely be told to do the following:

  • Prop your leg — at the calf or ankle — on a couple pillows four to six times a day. This helps reduce swelling
  • Keep the bandages on your knee clean and dry
  • Incorporate the usage of a continuous passive motion machine at home

Two to Four Weeks After Surgery

About two weeks after surgery, you will be able to start putting some weight on your knee. During this time, you also will have a follow-up appointment with your UPMC Sports Medicine knee surgeon, who will perform a physical evaluation of the knee to measure the range of motion and stability of the repaired knee. Your doctor might fit you for a knee brace to wear for a few weeks.

If the incision is healing properly and there are no complications from surgery, you will begin physical therapy. Your individualized physical therapy plan will be given to you by your doctor and physical therapist, but most people will need to attend sessions a couple times a week.

Two to Nine Months After Surgery

Rehabilitation is a vital part of your ACL recovery and is essential to getting back to regular physical activity. Your doctor and physical therapist will develop a comprehensive rehabilitation plan that is suited to your recovery goals. Physical therapy programs include basic programs to help you regain strength and stability, injury-specific programs, or sport-specific programs.

Your surgeon and physical therapist will work together to safely clear you to return to your full, daily activities or help you safely return to playing sport if you are an athlete or highly active individual.