It’s easy to take your knees for granted. Without giving it a second thought, you walk, climb, sit or kneel thanks to the mobility of your knees. Ligaments play a big role in bracing your knee joints for these activities. But when you injure a ligament, you may feel as though your knees won’t allow you to move or even to hold you up. Fortunately, you and your health care team can make a joint effort to return you to an active lifestyle.
Two ligaments in your knees are more prone to injury than others. Your anterior cruciate ligaments (ACL), in the centre of your knee, is commonly injured by a twist. Losing control of your skis or falling off a ladder, for example are both setups for an ACL injury. Your medical collateral ligament (MCL) on the inside of your knee, is vulnerable to blows from the side common in contact sports like football. Either injury may weaken your knee joint, making it wobbly and causing a variety of symptoms. If left untreated, more serious problems can develop.
If surgery is recommended your doctor may screw, staple or stitch your ligament back together to repair your joint. Your doctor may use arthroscopy or open surgery to repair any related injuries.
Your pre-op check list
- Don’t eat or drink after midnight, the day before surgery
- Arrange for a ride home a couple of days after surgery
- Bring x-rays and necessary medical records with you
Before MCL repair
Your doctor has already determined that your MCL is torn, but before repairing it, your doctor may first use an arthroscope to look inside your joint for other injuries, such as an ACL or menicus tear. If present these injuries may be repaired through arthroscope or through an open incision. Your MCL, however can’t be viewed through an arthroscope.
Your arthopaedist will screw, staple or stitch your ligament together through an open incision. Later this “hardware” may be removed if it causes pain. A temporary drain – a thin rubber tube – may be placed in your joint to remove fluids, then incisions are sewed closed.
Risks and Complications
All surgeries carry a slight risk of infection and blood vessel or nerve injury. The same is true for MCL surgery. In addition, scar tissue may form, later requiring treatment
A two-to-three-day hospital stay may follow your surgery. Although mainly resting your joint at first, you also may be asked by your doctor to do light exercises to minimise stiffness. If you have a drain it will removed before you go home.