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Treatment Orthopedics

PCL Tear

Simple PCL tears are usually treated with physical therapy rather than surgery. A brace may be used at first, and a well-designed physical therapy program helps you regain function and stability. The time it takes you to recover will depend on your injury's severity; full recovery ranges from a few weeks to a few months.

Surgery is often considered if additional ligaments are torn or if you haven't regained knee stability after completing physical therapy. The decision to have surgery is often a personal choice, in which you and your doctor consider factors such as your age, physical condition and athletic goals.

The usual surgery is a minimally invasive procedure in which a surgeon reconstructs your PCL using a graft from another part of your body (an autograft) or a cadaver (an allograft). The graft serves as scaffolding for the ligament to grow new tissue; the type of graft used is based on patient and surgeon preference.

Taking less than two hours, the surgery is done with an arthroscope (an endoscope for use in joints), through small incisions made around the knee. A tiny camera is inserted to allow the surgeon to see all of the knee's structures and to appropriately position the new ligament. You'll be under general anesthesia (completely asleep) and will also be given a nerve block, an injection that interrupts pain signals in the area and lessens post-op pain.

Most patients return home on the same day and use crutches and a knee brace for at least six weeks. One to two weeks after surgery, the stitches are removed and a physical therapy program is started. Committing to the program is key to achieving a full recovery.

UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.

Recommended reading

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Why are women winding up with more knee injuries? Researchers suspect one of the most likely causes is the way women are built. Learn more here.

Take Care of Your Knees

Although collateral ligament injuries can be difficult to avoid, here are several steps you can take to improve the strength and flexibility of your knees.

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