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After ACL Reconstruction Surgery

After ACL reconstruction surgery, you'll go to the recovery area. Your care team will check to make sure you don't have any problems from the surgery and anesthesia.

When you're ready to go home, your surgeon and care team will go over what you need to do right away. They'll also explain what to watch for as you heal from surgery.

Most discharge instructions include:

  • How to care for your incisions.
  • How to use crutches, braces, or stabilization devices.
  • When to call the doctor.

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 doesn't go away with medicine.

If you have concerns about how you're healing or have signs of infection, call your doctor right away.

First Two Weeks After ACL Reconstruction Surgery

You may need someone to help you when you first go home from ACL surgery. You can expect to be off work a few days to a few weeks, based on how physically demanding your job is.

For the first two weeks after surgery, you'll need to:

  • Rest and care for the incision site.
  • Keep the bandages on your knee clean and dry.
  • Prop your leg — at the calf or ankle — on a couple pillows four to six times a day. This helps reduce swelling.
  • Avoid bearing weight on your knee.
  • Use crutches for the first four weeks after your surgery, in most cases.

You can usually move your knee right after surgery, but it might hurt. Your doctor will give you some exercises to keep the blood flowing in your leg and help prevent blood clots.

It's crucial you work on quad sets. Quad sets will assure your knee heals fully straight and you won’t get a contracture later on.

You'll likely use a continuous passive motion machine, so your knee gets regular movement.

Your doctor will also send you home with medicine or advice for managing pain.

Two to Four Weeks After ACL Surgery

About two weeks after surgery, you:

  • Can start putting some weight on your knee.
  • Will have a follow-up appointment with your UPMC Sports Medicine knee surgeon.

Your surgeon will do a physical assessment of the repaired knee to measure the range of motion and stability. He or she might fit you for a knee brace to wear for a few weeks.

If the incision is healing properly and you have no complications from surgery, you will start physical therapy.

Two to Nine Months After ACL Surgery

Rehab and physical therapy are vital to your ACL recovery and essential to getting back to regular physical activity. PT will help you regain strength and stability in your knee.

Your surgeon and physical therapist will tailor a complete rehab plan that suits your recovery goals. We also have injury- and sport-specific PT programs.

Most people that have ACL surgery need to attend PT a couple times a week.

Your surgeon and physical therapist will work together to clear you for a safe return to your full, daily routine or sport.

Learn More About ACL Surgery and After-Care

Contact the UPMC Sports Medicine ACL Program today to learn more or make an appointment.