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ACL Reconstruction

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Evolution of ACL Reconstruction

Historically the first ACL reconstructions were done through a large incision and putting part of a tendon taken from another part of the body into the knee to act as a stabilizer. However, as technology and surgery have advanced, current ACL reconstructions are performed arthroscopically. This means with small incisions around the knee and using a small camera that is placed into the joint.

The first procedures using arthroscopy were done with a single drill tunnel extending from the tibia into the femur. Usually, now two separate tunnels are drilled, one in the tibia and one in the femur, as this allows for improved recreation of the body’s normal path for the ligament. To recreate the ligament itself, two main tissue categories exist: autograft (tissue is taken from the patient themselves), and allograft (donated tissue from another person).

Autograft can come from the hamstring muscle tendons, quadricep muscle tendon, and patellar tendon. The quadriceps and patellar tendon options can have bone attached to the graft to help with healing. Each graft source has its advantages and disadvantages. Autograft often heals faster and there is not a risk for immune reaction. However, there is an associated risk of harvest site morbidity to include hamstring weakness, anterior knee pain, and a limited number of sources.

Allograft has the benefit of not having harvest site morbidity but is slower to heal and 1 in a million chance of viral transmission between donor and recipient. For most patients, there is not a significant difference in outcomes between allograft and autograft reconstructions.

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