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The Importance of ACL Surgery: What Happens if Left Untreated?

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The Importance of ACL Surgery: What Happens if Left Untreated?

Orthopaedics & Joint Replacement | Posted on 02/26/2024 by Dr. Aashish K. Sharma



Introduction

Are you suffering from an ACL tear? If yes, then you must book an appointment with one of the best orthopedic doctors in Jaipur at CK Birla Hospitals, Jaipur. Before we dive deep into what is an ACL tear and other aspects. Let’s first discuss how common this condition is. Well, it is relatively one of the most common knee injuries specifically among sportspeople or athletes who are involved in activities like abrupt stops, direction changes, or jumping. One survey suggests that more than 200,000 ACL tears alone in the US yearly. However, the rate of frequency relies on factors like activity level, age, sex, and sports type. 

In this blog, we'll profoundly discuss the various aspects of ACL tears, including their causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment options, and potential complications if left untreated. However, please note that we do not encourage overlooking the doctor’s consultation in any way. 

What is an ACL Tear?

An ACL tear is a condition involving the partial or complete rupture of the anterior cruciate ligament, one of the four major ligaments in the knee. This injury usually happens during activities involving sudden stops, changes in direction, or direct trauma to the knee. As a result, patients often experience problems like restricted motion range, swelling, pain, and swelling. The condition is identified with several tests like physical assessment and imaging tests such as MRI. Depending on the diagnosis, healthcare expert offers options for treatment that might involve surgery in severe cases for torn ligament reconstruction as well. The recovery period for an ACL tear depends on the tear severity and the selected plan for treatment.

What are ACL tear causes?

Healthcare experts have identified that anything that involves putting excessive force on the knee leads to an ACL tear. It can occur when knees are moving or twisting more than it usually does. Here are some of the most common ACL tear causes: 

  • Non-contact twisting or twisting motions of the knee like those observed in games like basketball, soccer, or skiing.
  • Direct impact to the knee because of a collision during football or a fall while skiing.
  • Landing ineptly from a jump, specifically when the knee is hyperextended or not rightly aligned.

What are ACL tear symptoms?

An ACL tear symptoms might vary depending on the type of injury, however, here are some of the most common symptoms to be noticed: 

  • Abrupt and severe pain in the knee during the time of injury.
  • Swelling in the knee after the injury within a few hours.
  • Imbalance or a feeling of the knee "giving way" during weight-bearing activities.
  • Hearable popping or snapping sensation during the time of injury.
  • Restricted motion range, specifically when trying to fully straighten or bend the knee.

What are the complications of ACL tear if left untreated?

An ACL tear is very common, especially among athletes or sports people due to intense activities. However, if treatment is not considered even after identifying the problem, it can cause severe complications like:

  • Chronic knee instability causes injuries or degenerative alterations in the knee joint.
  • Enhanced risk of growing osteoarthritis in the affected knee over time.
  • Experiencing issues while returning to sports or activities requiring agility and stability.
  • Bone fractures
  • Muscle tears 
  • Meniscus tears

How is an ACL tear diagnosed?

Healthcare experts initiate the diagnosis by asking about the symptoms of a patient and performing physical evaluation tests or imaging tests. Here are these tests:

  • Physical examination: A healthcare expert first begins by assessing the motion range, stability, and knee tenderness.
  • Imaging tests: Magnetic Resonance Imaging or MRI helps in confirming the diagnosis and evaluating the seriousness of the ACL injury, involving any related damage to other structures in the knee joint.
  • X-rays: It is involved in creating images of bones and soft tissues surrounding the knee. It will assist the expert in assessing the injury, dislocated joints, and other injury.

What are the options available for ACL tear treatment?

The options for an ACL treatment rely on the grade of ACL tear and other harms inside the patient’s knee. Here are some of the common options usually recommended to treat an ACL tear:

  • Conservative management: Rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE) assist in minimizing pain and swelling in minor ACL injuries.
  • Physical therapy: Exercises assist in strengthening the muscles encircling the knee and can enhance stability and function.
  • Bracing: A knee brace is usually suggested for support during activities.
  • Surgical intervention: For substantial ACL tears or injuries in active patients, reconstructive surgery is required to restore stability and knee functionality. This usually involves the use of a graft to exchange the torn ligament and secure the knee joint.

Conclusion

In a nutshell, an ACL tear is among the most common injuries having a significant impact on an individual's mobility and quality of life. It mainly affects the life of an individual when even after identifying it is left untreated, that’s when the patient experiences complications. Comprehending the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment options, and probable complications linked to ACL tears is vital for immediate and efficient management. Getting timely medical attention and following a comprehensive rehabilitation program benefits in optimizing outcomes and facilitating a secure return to activity whether through conservative measures or surgical intervention. If you suffer from this condition, you don’t have to get apprehensive. All you need to do is work with your doctor and follow the instructions as recommended. 

FAQ -

 

Can ACL tear heal on its own?

An ACL tear cannot heal on its own, however, living with this condition is not impossible. People who are interested in returning to their active and sports life might require ACL tear surgery for repair or knee regeneration. 

Can ACL tear heal without surgery?

In a very rare case like sprains, ACL tears can heal without the need for surgery. But, in most cases, surgery is required for complete healing. 

Will a partial ACL tear heal?

Yes, a partial ACL tear can heal without the need for surgery, however, it is important to know that functionality and movement are restricted. The knees might feel unstable for some time as the ACL tear heals in a recumbent position.