Pediatric ACL Surgery in Greater Detroit
Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears are a common injury in adolescent and even children of ages as young as 5 years old. These can occur in high-level national athletes and in the same way affect non-athletes. Almost all pediatric and adolescent patients benefit from reconstruction of the ACL to restore the ligaments critical function in stabilizing the knee. This protects the meniscus from injury and prevents early knee arthritis over the long term. ACL reconstruction surgery takes tissue from elsewhere during the surgery to use as a graft to reconstruction the ACL (either a patient’s own hamstrings tendons, a portion of the patellar tendon with bone attached, or a portion of quadriceps tendon with or without patella bone attached). This type of graft that comes from the patient’s own body is called autograft. Graft tissue that comes from a cadaver that has been sterilized is called allograft. Allograft tissue has a very high rate of repeat tearing in young patients, so its use is limited in these patients.
Each of the autograft types have their advantages and disadvantages depending on patient’s age and particular demands on their sports or activities. Dr. Minnock will discuss the pros and cons of each graft type as part of the surgical discussion. Dr. Minnock is trained in specialized ACL reconstruction that avoids damaging the growth plates for young children who are still growing. This type of specialized surgery may be needed, depending on how much growth the child has left.
After surgery, patients follow a progression of exercises with a physical therapist and work on these at home regularly during the recovery process. This allows patients to rebuild and to rebalance the muscles that stabilize the knee. Most patients are able to get back to their previous sports and activities 6-9 months after surgery once they have rebalanced these muscles with rehab exercises and depending on the specific sports requirements. There is no firm time period for recovery. Return to sport is determined by how strong, balanced and stable the muscles are around the knee following rehabilitation.
Sometimes an ACL-stabilizing brace is used after the procedure for certain sports. Most of the time one is not required though.