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Knee surgery, anterior cruciate ligament

Read about the things you need to consider when deciding whether to have knee surgery, including your age, lifestyle, occupation and whether you play sports.

The decision to have knee surgery will depend on the extent of damage to your anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and whether it affects your quality of life.

If your knee doesn't feel unstable and you don't have an active lifestyle, you may decide not to have ACL surgery.

However, you should be aware that delaying surgery could result in further damage to your knee.

One study of people with ACL tears found that their risk of damaging the injured knee increased by 1% for every month between the injury occurring and surgery.

Things to consider

When deciding whether to have ACL surgery, the following factors should be taken into consideration:

  • your age older people who aren't very active may be less likely to need surgery
  • your lifestyle – for example, whether you'll be able to follow the rehabilitation programme after having surgery
  • how often you play sports – you may need to have surgery if you play sports regularly 
  • your occupation – for example, whether you do any form of manual labour
  • how unstable your knee is – if your knee is very unstable, you're at increased risk of doing further damage if you don't have surgery  
  • whether you have any other injuries – for example, your menisci (small discs of cartilage that act as shock absorbers) may also be torn and may heal better when repaired at the same time as ACL reconstruction

Children

If necessary, children can also have ACL reconstructive surgery. However, as they're still growing, the procedure is likely to be modified to ensure that the growth areas aren't affected.

It's a trickier operation and may need to be carried out by a surgeon with a special interest in childhood injuries.

If surgery isn't possible, a brace and refraining from sports until the child is fully grown may be an alternative.


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