Kellie K. Middleton, MD

When Does an ACL Tear Require Surgery?

Aug 28, 2023
When Does an ACL Tear Require Surgery?
Does your ACL tear require surgery, or are there alternative treatment options? Keep reading to find out and don't miss the key factors that determine the best course of action for your knee injury.

Sustaining an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) tear can be a painful and debilitating injury, often requiring prompt medical attention. However, not all ACL tears automatically necessitate surgery. 

Experienced orthopedic specialist Kellie K. Middleton, MD and her dedicated team are here to guide you through every step of the way. We’ll help you delve into the factors that determine whether an ACL tear requires surgical intervention and find the individualized treatment plan you need. 

By understanding the considerations involved, you can make informed decisions about your treatment options and recovery process.

Understanding ACL tears 

The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is a vital structure in the knee joint that provides stability by connecting the thigh bone (femur) to the shin bone (tibia). When subjected to excessive force or sudden twisting motions, the ACL can tear, resulting in pain and functional impairment.

ACL tears commonly occur during activities that involve rapid changes in direction, jumping, or direct impact to the knee. Athletes participating in sports such as soccer, basketball, football, and skiing are particularly prone to ACL injuries. 

It’s essential to be aware of the symptoms associated with an ACL tear, which typically include a distinct popping sound or sensation at the time of injury, immediate swelling, severe pain, joint instability, and difficulty bearing weight on the affected leg.

Factors influencing the need for surgery 

Several factors come into play when determining whether an ACL tear requires surgical intervention:

Extent of the tear 

The severity of the ACL tear is an important consideration. A partial tear involves damage to only a portion of the ligament, while a complete tear refers to a rupture of the ligament. Complete tears are more likely to necessitate surgery for proper restoration of knee stability.

Activity level and lifestyle 

Your activity level and future goals play a significant role in the decision-making process. If you’re involved in high-demand sports or activities that require a stable knee joint, surgical reconstruction may be recommended to restore full function and minimize the risk of further injury.

Associated injuries 

ACL tears often occur in conjunction with other knee injuries, such as meniscus tears or collateral ligament damage. The presence of these additional injuries may influence the treatment approach and the need for surgical intervention.

Functional limitations 

The impact of the ACL tear on daily activities and stability is a crucial consideration. If the injury significantly impairs functionality and limits participation in desired activities, surgery may be the preferred option to regain knee stability and restore quality of life.

Age and future considerations 

Age can play a role in the decision-making process. Younger individuals, particularly those engaged in sports or physically demanding activities, may be more likely to undergo surgical reconstruction due to the potential long-term implications of not addressing the ACL tear. Older individuals with lower activity levels may opt for non-surgical treatment options, depending on the extent of the tear and associated factors.

Ultimately, determining whether an ACL tear requires surgery involves considering various factors such as the extent of the tear, activity level, associated injuries, functional limitations, age, and future considerations. 

By understanding the factors influencing the need for surgery and exploring all available treatment options, you can make informed decisions that will aid in your recovery and allow for a return to an active, fulfilling lifestyle.

If you’re ready to learn more about ACL tears and your treatment options, contact us at 770-509-4030 or fill in our online contact form to book your appointment with Dr. Middleton today!