Ligament injuries are common among young athletes, adult fitness buffs, and older people who are prone to falling. Ligaments are pretty tough and fairly stretchy to allow for all kinds of movement, but repetitive strains and traumatic accidents can be too much for the tissue to bear. This can result in permanent damage that leaves you in pain and, worse, immobile.
If a torn or strained ligament in your knee or ankle has left you on the sidelines, we encourage you to learn more about ligament reconstruction surgery. Our skilled orthopedic surgeons in Portland are standing by to help you on your road to recovery.
What Do Ligaments Do?
You might have learned in a health or anatomy class that ligaments attach bone to bone. While that's accurate, they do a lot more than just hold bones together; they also support internal organs and stabilize and support joints. There are around 900 ligaments in the human body, mostly in the arms, hands, legs, and feet. The most common ligaments to be injured by trauma are the four primary ligaments in the knee, but ankle and wrist ligaments are also prone to traumatic and overuse injuries requiring repair.
What Is Ligament Reconstruction?
Ligaments perform a very important function, especially in joints. When a ligament supporting a joint is severely stretched or torn, you will lose stability and range of motion in the joint. This can make it difficult—if not impossible—to use the joint effectively without pain. When rest, ice, and anti-inflammatory medications are not enough to ease pain and improve mobility, surgical reconstruction of the damaged tissue might be necessary to restore function.
Ligament reconstruction is most commonly used to treat injuries to the following ligaments:
- Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). The most common type of ligament reconstruction involves the ACL in the knee. The ACL can be torn or sprained when the knee is twisted too far. This is a common injury among soccer, field hockey, football, and basketball players, as well as gymnasts and downhill skiers. Girls and women are particularly prone to ACL injuries.
- Posterior cruciate ligament (PCL). The second-most common knee ligament to be injured is the PCL. The PCL can be sprained or torn when the knee is hyperextended in an awkward landing or in a direct blow to the flexed knee. PCL injuries often also involve joint dislocation and require surgery.
- Lateral ankle ligament. The outer ligament supporting your ankle can be stretched or torn when you twist your ankle. Repeatedly twisting your ankle over time can damage the ligament to the point where the only solution to restore ankle stability is reconstruction surgery.
- Carpometacarpal (CMC) ligament. The CMC joint, where the thumb meets the wrist, is at increased risk of developing osteoarthritis from overuse. CMC ligament reconstruction can restore mechanical function of the thumb with the rest of the hand.
While ligament reconstruction can feel like a life-saving procedure to an injured athlete, it should not be undertaken lightly. Our specialists will exhaust every conservative treatment before recommending surgery.
What Happens During Ligament Reconstruction Surgery?
In some cases, a damaged ligament can simply be sutured in a minimally invasive procedure. However, for partial or complete tears, the ligament will have to be replaced with tendon tissue taken from another part of your own body or from a donor. Ligament reconstruction can often be performed arthroscopically, meaning only small incisions are made in the area, and micro-tools are used, guided by a tiny camera.
It can take several months to fully recover from ligament reconstruction. Recovery will involve a rehabilitation program to help you slowly break in the tissue and teach you to protect yourself from future injury.
Is Ligament Reconstruction Surgery Right for You?
If you have a torn ACL or PCL, a strained lateral ankle ligament, or an arthritic thumb joint, ligament reconstruction might be what you need to ease your pain and restore your mobility so that you can get back to work, play, or relaxation more quickly. You can trust Northwest Extremity Specialists to provide the highest level of care. Call us today at 503-245-2420 to make an appointment in the Portland-area office closest to you.