Dr. Hacker explains what a woman needs to know about anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) treatments.
The anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, is a ligament that lives in the middle of your knee and has a very, very poor blood supply. So when this ligament tears, it really doesn’t do much in terms of healing back correctly. It tries, but it never really gets there, and so because of this, we find that the best way to fix this in most cases is not try to put stitches in it and sew it back, but in most cases we actually like to take tissue from somewhere other part of the body and put that in place of the ACL, essentially making a new ligament for you.
In choosing how to do this, there are a number of different choices one can make in terms of where do we take that tissue from. The first big choice to make is, do you want to take it from your own body or potentially from a donor? The advantage of taking that tissue from a donor is that it’s a smaller operation for you; there’s less pain associated with the surgery, and the downside is that it is someone else’s tissue and so, even though it’s all been very thoroughly tested and evaluated for potential disease transmission, you can never be 100% sure.
The other disadvantage of using an allograft tissue, or tissue from a donor, is that sometimes that tissue takes a little longer to incorporate than using your own tissue. So your physician would typically slow down your rehabilitation by several months, allowing that graft to take hold appropriately.
In terms of graft choices you can use from yourself, we either typically use one of your hamstring’s tendons or we use part of your patella tendon in front, just below the kneecap. Both of these tendons can be very easily teased out from your own knee without sacrificing any function in terms of how your knee works and replaced to function now as a new ACL graft.
About Dr. Hacker, M.D., M.S.:
Dr. Hacker specializes in sports medicine, both on and off the field. Dr. Hacker completed extensive training in bioengineering at both the undergraduate and graduate level, and was given a Regent's Fellowship as well as a National Science Foundation Honorable Mention for his work. He completed a Master's Thesis in Engineering on the properties of meniscal tissue in addition to multiple projects including pioneering research in ACL healing and repair. He then served as director of the Coutts Institute in San Diego, a leading center for Orthopaedic research. Dr. Hacker completed an orthopedic research fellowship studying the ability to grow and transplant cartilage.