What are bad signs after ACL surgery?

Answered by Jarrod Smith

After ACL surgery, there are certain signs that may indicate a potential problem or graft failure. It is important to pay attention to these signs and report them to your healthcare provider for further evaluation. Here are some of the bad signs that you should be aware of:

1. Knee Instability: One of the most common signs of ACL graft failure is a feeling of knee instability. You may experience a sensation that your knee is giving way or buckling, especially during activities that involve pivoting or sudden changes in direction. This can be quite concerning and may indicate a problem with the reconstructed ligament.

2. Knee Swelling: Swelling in the knee after ACL surgery is expected in the initial stages of recovery. However, if you notice persistent or worsening swelling, it can be a sign of graft failure. Swelling may be accompanied by increased pain, warmth, or redness around the knee joint. This could indicate inflammation due to a failed graft.

3. Decreased Range of Motion: Another concerning sign after ACL surgery is a decrease in your knee’s range of motion. If you notice that your knee is becoming stiff or you are having difficulty straightening or bending it fully, it may suggest issues with the graft. This can limit your ability to perform daily activities and may require further evaluation.

4. Persistent Pain: While some pain is expected after ACL surgery, persistent or worsening pain can be a red flag for graft failure. If your pain is not improving with time or is increasing in intensity, it is important to have it assessed by your healthcare provider. Pain may be accompanied by a feeling of grinding or clicking within the knee joint.

5. Recurrence of Giving Way Episodes: If you had experienced episodes of your knee giving way or feeling unstable prior to surgery and you are still experiencing the same symptoms after the procedure, it may indicate a failed graft. The purpose of ACL surgery is to restore stability to the knee, so recurrent instability is a concerning sign that should be addressed.

6. Lack of Progress in Rehabilitation: Following ACL surgery, a comprehensive rehabilitation program is crucial for a successful outcome. If you find that you are not making progress in your rehabilitation, such as difficulty regaining strength, balance, or coordination, it may indicate a problem with the graft. Your physical therapist or surgeon can assess your progress and determine if further intervention is necessary.

It is important to remember that these signs do not definitively mean that your ACL graft has failed. However, they are indicators that should not be ignored. If you are experiencing any of these signs or have concerns about your recovery, it is important to consult with your healthcare provider for a thorough evaluation and appropriate management.

Personal Experience: As an athlete who has undergone ACL surgery, I can relate to the anxiety and uncertainty that can accompany the recovery process. I remember feeling a sense of relief when my knee started to feel stable again and I was able to resume my activities without pain or apprehension. However, I also experienced a setback during my rehabilitation period when I noticed persistent swelling and limited range of motion in my knee. It turned out that I had developed a minor complication, but with the help of my healthcare team, we were able to address it promptly and adjust my rehabilitation plan accordingly. This experience taught me the importance of being vigilant and proactive in monitoring any signs of potential graft failure after ACL surgery.