Key Points about Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) Reconstruction Surgery

  • The medial collateral ligament (MCL) connects the tibia (shin) to the femur (thigh) on the outside of the knee joint. The MCL is responsible for adding stability and holding your knee bones together.
  • Reconstruction surgery for an MCL tear is necessary for elite athletes who have multiple knee ligament issues, when the ligament has been completely torn, or when the ligament is not functioning correctly.
  • During MCL surgery, your surgeon will reattach or reconstruct the damaged tendon. Your doctor can use a graft from another area of your body, such as the hamstring or use donor tissue.
  • An MCL injury is a common injury in sports such as football, soccer when a player is hit on the outside of the knee.
  • Residual knee stiffness and instability are potential risks after an MCL reconstruction.

Overview

Medial collateral ligament reconstructive surgery is a common orthopedic procedure that is performed when a person severely tears the MCL ligament.

MCL surgery candidates

You may need MCL surgery if you have a grade III tear, where the ligament has completely torn, and the ligament is non-functional. Also, if you are an elite athlete with multiple knee ligament injuries, your doctor may recommend surgery to repair the ligament.

Typically, your doctor will try nonsurgical methods before recommending surgical treatment.

MCL surgery is not recommended for patients with degenerative changes in their medial or lateral compartment, those who have an active infection, ligament instability, or have other chronic diseases that would impede recovery after surgery.

MCL surgery preparation

MCL surgery is performed under general anesthesia, where you will be asleep for the procedure. Before surgery, your orthopedic surgeon will examine the knee in a procedure called an arthroscopy. During this procedure, your doctor will be able to determine if you have other concurrent knee injuries such as an ACL or PCL tear.

MCL surgery expectations

During MCL surgery, your doctor  orthopedic surgeon will make several small incisions in the knee and will insert an arthroscope to reach the affected tendon. Your doctor will reattach or reconstruct the torn ligament. If your doctor needs to rebuild the tendon, he or she will take a portion of your patellar tendon or hamstring tendon to make a graft. In some cases, tendons from a donor are used.

Duration of MCL Surgery

An MCL reconstruction is performed on an outpatient basis. Therefore, you will be able to go home after the procedure and will not need a hospital stay.

It will take two to three months to recover from MCL surgery fully.