The anterior cruciate ligament or ACL is a ligament that is present in the knee. The ACL is essential to the musculoskeletal system of the body, allowing the movement of the knee joint. Incidentally, the ACL is also one of the most common points of injuries, especially in sportsmen.
An ACL tear due to an injury sustained on the knee can cause much pain and discomfort to the joints in the knee. The only way to treat an ACL injury is to either repair the muscle or reconstruct it. There are several different choices that are available in order to reconstruct the ACL. However, it is important to note that ACL repair and reconstruction are two completely different things. Depending on the degree of damage sustained by the ACL, the doctor will decide the course of action that is required.
If an ACL has been severely damaged or has sustained a large tear, it will not heal on its own and will require a reconstruction surgery to correct it. Even if an attempt to repair the ACL is made, the torn edges of the ligament cannot be sewn back together.
In such a case, the only remaining course of action is to remove the ends that are torn and replace them with different structures from different parts of the body. You can use grafts from other parts like the patellar tendon and the hamstring tendon. Each of these grafts has its own advantages and disadvantages.
When a graft has to be planted into a torn ACL, the shin bone and the thigh bone are used. Small tunnels are made in both these bones and the graft is passed through them to reconstruct the ligament and secure the tissue in the correct place. The muscles of the hamstring are most commonly used for this graft. The hamstring muscles are present in groups on the back of the thigh. For grafting, two tendons from the group of muscles are removed and bundled together. When together, these are exactly like a new ACL set.
While earlier the methods of planting these grafts were not very efficient, with time, the methods of fixing a graft have improved.
Hamstring grafting is preferred over the patellar tendon one because the pain experienced is much less while using the hamstring muscles. While using the hamstring tendons, the incisions made on the shin bone and the thigh bone are also significantly smaller.