What is MCL surgery?

The MCL is your medial collateral ligament. It's in the medial — or inner — part of your knee. The MCL is a thick band running down your inner knee along your thighbone to a few inches above your shinbone. Its job is to support and stabilize your knee while it rotates. The MCL can stretch or tear due to stressful activities. That means it needs to heal, sometimes with surgical reconstruction, for your knee to function.

What to expect during MCL reconstruction

Your doctor first determines if you have a Grade 1, Grade 2 or Grade 3 injury. Grade 1 is a mild injury. Grades 2 and 3 are more severe. If you have a Grade 2 or 3 injury, your doctor can feel your knee move in a distinct way when they manipulate it by hand.

Most often, the MCL responds to non-surgical treatment. Rest, icing, pain relievers and wearing a lightweight brace to keep your knee in place may be all the rehabilitation you need. Your tear may take one to eight weeks to heal, depending on the grade.

In some instances, the MCL doesn't respond to the treatment and it's non-functional. It may be severely damaged, along with other knee ligaments in the medial knee. You may need surgical MCL reconstruction.

If you're one of the rare patients who need surgery for your MCL, your surgeon examines the damage with arthroscopy. The procedure involves inserting a small camera into a tiny incision to explore the injury and figure out how to reconstruct your medial knee. You're under general anesthesia, so you're fully asleep. The surgeon re-attaches ligaments to the bone using sutures, metal screws or bone staples. If possible, the surgeon can sew torn ends together with stitches. You may remain in the hospital overnight or longer. After a few days, your rehabilitation — including physical therapy — starts.

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