ACL Knee Surgery Long Term Effects: Side Effects Of ACL Reconstruction

Surgical repair of an ACL tear involves removing the injured ligament and replacing it with a graft to restore the function of the knee.

When done right, the effects of ACL surgery can be minimal and a person can regain full range of motion on the affected knee.

Patients may also develop problems like Osteoarthritis 10, 15, or 20 years following surgery.

ACL Reconstruction Surgery Side Effects

Here are some immediate post-surgical effects that a patient can expect following ACL reconstruction:

  • Swelling – short term side effect of surgery, prevented with pressure garments
  • Stiffness
  • Soreness
  • Pain on movement
  • Bruising

Knee Movement Post-Op

  • Immediately after surgery, the affected limb is immobilized.
  • After a few hours or a day, some knee exercises are going to be implemented. These are done to help the patient regain motion, flexibility, and strength faster.
  • Patients can return to light sports activities once the swelling goes down
  • Near normal sports activities may be achieved a year or so following surgery, but this is dependent on how severe the tear was in the first place.

Long Term Effects Of ACL Surgery

  • Most of the athletes who have had the procedure done returned to near normal activities in a year or two following the procedure.
  • Up to 10 or 15 years following surgery, some patients have reported some degree or pain and stiffness.
  • Osteoarthritis is also a big concern and it can develop years after surgery.
  • For the most part, patients who have had ACL reconstruction are susceptible to the development of Osteoarthritis.
  • Some athletes who have had ACL surgery had to retire because of the pain brought on by arthritic knees.
  • Osteoarthritis is most reported in patients who have had meniscectomy with their ACL repair.
  • Preservation of the meniscus can help improve the long term results of surgery.
  • Recent imaging studies have also pointed out that the Osteoarthritis experienced by ACL surgery patients is related to the damage on the bone itself and because of the graft.