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Before ACL Reconstruction Surgery

Before surgery to repair your injured ACL, your UPMC Sports Medicine knee surgeon will design a complete plan based on:

  • Diagnostic tests.
  • Imaging studies.
  • Your goals for treatment.

Your surgeon will also discuss the recovery time after ACL surgery, so you fully understand your rehab plan.

Testing and Assessments Before ACL Reconstruction Surgery

Before having ACL reconstruction surgery, your doctor may order tests to help assess the level of your injury.

These tests may include x-rays and MRI scans to take precise measurements of the bones and structures of the knee.

Your test results help your surgeon:

  • Learn the type and extent of the injury to your ACL and surrounding tissues.
  • Check the anatomy of your knee for any unique needs and decide how to operate.
  • Predict the size of your native ACL before your injury and plan the size of the new replacement graft.

The timing of having these tests will depend on a few factors, such as swelling in your knee. Swelling may need to go down so your doctor can get a clearer picture of the injury and nearby areas.

Physical Therapy and Rehab Before ACL Surgery

Before surgery, doctors often prescribe physical therapy — “prehabilitation” — to help:

  • Reduce swelling in the knee.
  • Improve strength in the muscles around the knee.
  • Restore, as close as possible, the normal range of motion in the knee.

Rehab activities depend on the aspects of your ACL injury.

Nutrition and Diet Before ACL Surgery

At the UPMC Sports Medicine ACL Program, we counsel people who need help with their nutrition needs before having surgery.

We may suggest that you:

  • Limit or stop using things such as caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol in the weeks leading to surgery.
  • Take certain nutritional supplements — such as multivitamins, vitamin C, and zinc — before surgery. These help promote wound healing during post-op recovery.

How We Decide the Best Type of Graft to Repair Your ACL

To repair a torn or ruptured ACL, your surgeon will discuss graft options with you:

  • Taking the graft from one of your own tendons — an autograft.
  • Using a donor graft — an allograft.

Your knee surgeon chooses a graft that will give you with the strongest possible tissue, so you can:

  • Make a complete recovery.
  • Return to your pre-injury condition, as closely as possible.


An autograft most often comes from either your:

  • Patellar tendon
  • Quadriceps tendon
  • Hamstring tendon

The decision on where the graft will come from has many factors, including:

  • The health of the tendon.
  • Any underlying diseases or conditions that might prevent the use of your own tendon.
  • The types of physical activities that you often take part in.


People who aren't a good fit for an autograft can have an allograft — a graft from a donor.

Your knee surgeon will discuss the best options for you based on your:

  • ACL injury.
  • Knee's anatomy.
  • Physical condition.

Knowing Your Recovery and Rehab Plan Before ACL Surgery

Before surgery, your doctor will discuss your rehab plan.

This plan is flexible. We can or will adjust it over time as you progress through the recovery period.

Rehab is crucial after surgery to:

  • Help your new ACL heal.
  • Give you the best chance of a full recovery.
  • Get back to your pre-injury sports and activities.

Learn More About ACL Reconstruction Surgery

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