What is PCL surgery?

During a surgical posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) reconstruction, your doctor removes the torn ligament. They reconstruct it with tissue taken from another part of your body or from a human donor. It can take several months for the graft to heal.

The PCL is one of the four major ligaments in your knee. It crosses the center of your knee in the back where it connects to the thigh bone to the shin bone. The PCL is a strong ligament. Injuries aren’t that common. Diagnosing a PCL injury can be more difficult. They are subtle compared to other ligament injuries according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.

After an injury, your doctor might recommend trying nonsurgical treatments first. Example include the RICE (rest, ice, compression and elevation) method.

What to expect from a surgical PCL reconstruction

At your first visit, your doctor will do a thorough exam to check the structure of your knee. He’ll also do extra tests like x-rays or an MRI. Often, doctors only recommend surgery if the ligament completely ruptured. They might also recommend it if the injury also affected other ligaments or parts of your knee.

Most doctors perform PCL reconstruction as an arthroscopic surgery. This allows them to use several small incisions and a special camera known as an arthroscope. They go in, remove the injured PCL and prepare the thigh and lower leg bones for the graft. Doctors connect the PCL graft on either bone using screws or staples to rebuild the PCL. The average surgery takes around two hours. This is a minimally invasive operation. You'll likely go to an outpatient surgical center.

You can expect to wear a brace and use crutches for the first four weeks or so. Physical therapy is a big part of the recovery process. It usually starts one to four weeks after surgery. Full recovery can take between six months and a year.

Common conditions requiring treatment

Injuring the PCL usually takes a powerful force. Tears mostly occur after you receive a direct flow to the leg below your knee or right at the front of the knee.

Some of the common situations that cause a serious tear include:

  • Car accidents, especially if your knee hits the dashboard
  • Sports accidents that cause you to fall on your bended knee
  • Twisting or hyperextending the ligament in a fall or misstep

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