Key Points about LCL Reconstruction Surgery

  • An LCL injury is a common condition that occurs after sustaining a direct blow to the inside of the knee. When this happens, the ligaments tear from being stretched too far.
  • LCL injuries occur in contact and high-risk sports such as football, basketball, hockey and downhill skiing.
  • The lateral collateral ligament (LCL) is a band that connects the femur to the fibula on the outside of the knee. When the LCL is completely torn or not healing with nonsurgical therapy, you may need surgery to reconstruct the ligament.
  • While some LCL injuries can be treated with anti-inflammatory medications as well as conservative treatments such as rest, ice, compression, and elevation, most people will need surgery.
  • Risks associated with LCL reconstruction surgery include chronic knee pain, weakness, or instability in the knee and peroneal nerve injury.
  • LCL reconstruction surgery is performed as an open surgery under general anesthesia, and most patients are able to go home the day of the surgery.
  • Most patients need physical therapy starting four to six weeks after surgery. Typically, it takes six months to recover fully.

Overview

LCL surgery is typically performed as an open procedure. During the procedure, your orthopedic surgeon will make a small incision in the affected area and insert small surgical instruments into the knee to fix the torn ligament.

In some cases, your doctor may combine open surgery with arthroscopy to diagnose and treat the joint.

LCL surgery candidates

The lateral collateral ligament (LCL) does not heal quickly or effectively without intervention. If the LCL is completely torn or is not healing adequately, you will likely need surgery to restore mobility and resolve pain.

LCL surgery risks

Potential risks associated with LCL reconstruction include:

  • Chronic knee pain
  • Weakness or instability in the knee
  • Peroneal nerve injury

LCL surgery preparation

In preparation for surgery, your doctor and care team will outline guidelines you should follow to ensure you have a successful surgery.

  • Stop taking any anti-inflammatory medication seven days before surgery to avoid excessive bleeding during the surgery.
  • Inform your doctor of any illnesses you have within a week of surgery, such as the flu or a fever.
  • Stop smoking cigarettes for a week before surgery.
  • Organize your home so you can easily move around.

LCL surgery expectations

You will be given general anesthesia, where you will fall asleep for the procedure, or a spinal or epidural anesthetic, where you will be numbed from the waist down.

During the open-knee procedure, your doctor will make an incision on the outside of the knee and pass the tendon graft through the bone tunnels. The graft may be taken from another part of your body, such as your hamstring.

Once in the appropriate place, the surgeon will attach the graft to the femur and fibula with screws or posts. The incision (s) are closed with stitches, and you will be moved to the recovery room.

LCL surgery duration

While most patients can leave the hospital after surgery, some will need to stay overnight for monitoring. During recovery, you will need to use crutches for as long as three weeks, take pain medication to control severe pain, and ice the surgery site to reduce swelling.

The length of the recovery process will vary depending upon how severe your injury is, as well as if you have other knee injuries.

As soon as you can put weight on the knee and are off crutches, you will likely begin physical therapy, typically after four to six weeks.

Your physical therapy team, in collaboration with your orthopedic surgery team, will develop a program to help you increase your strength and flexibility along with helping restore your balance.

Full recovery can take as long as six months, especially if you are hoping to return to a pre-injury vigorous activity level.