Risks and Complications of ACL Tear Surgery

risks and complications of acl tear

An ACL is the tearing of the anterior cruciate ligament tissue of the knee. An ACL is the most common type of known injury. You are likely to get an ACL injury if you have strongly hit on the side of your knee or while overextending your knee joint. Therefore, it is most commonly seen in people who are active in sports because of the multiple movements putting stress on the knee area.

In an ACL tear treatment, if you go for surgery, the doctors replace the torn ligament of your knee. After the procedure, you must follow the proper exercise and therapy routine to recover fast and avoid the common risks of ACL surgery.

If there are no issues in your ACL, the bones of your knee are held together tightly. It also helps to stabilize the movement of your knee.

Do You Need Surgery to Cure ACL Tear?

If you get an ACL tear, you may think that you need to undergo surgery. But it is not true; not all ACL tears require surgery. ACL tear treatment without surgery is also an option available depending on the condition of the ACL tear.

Whether ACL surgery is required or not depends on the type of ACL tear. There are two common types of ACL injuries. An ACL injury can be complete or partial. Complete ACL tears can only be treated with surgery, whereas partial ACL injury can be treated with other non-surgical methods, too.

The other common method of grading an ACL tear is based on its severity.

  • If your ACL is overstretched but not torn, then it is known as a grade 1 ACL. In this case, you will find that your knee is stable, and hence, it doesn't require any surgery.
  • Grade 2 ACL injury happens when your ligament is damaged, and there is some sort of instability. It is a part of grade 2 ACL. However, this ACL tear is not that common in people.
  • Grade 3 ACL tear is the most damaging of all the three grades of injuries. It requires surgery treatment in almost all cases, and the recovery period is also long. It is known as the complete tear.

What are the Risks of ACL Surgery?

An ACL is a common knee injury that needs surgery to replace the torn ligament. As per statistics, the chances of the success of an ACL treatment surgery are 80-90%. However, some people struggle to decide whether to go for ACL tear treatment surgery or not. This is because there are a lot of complications of ACL surgery, and its recovery period is also long.

Some of the risks of ACL surgery are discussed below -

Knee Pain

The most common risk of ACL surgery is the pain around the knee area. This risk is most commonly seen in people who have the surgery performed with a tendon graft. This is because the bone from the knee cap region is removed in the surgery treatment. This risk can be overcome with the physical therapies suggested by your doctor.


Stiffness in the knee area is commonly seen in people who have recently undergone ACL surgery. This risk can be fought with the technique of aggressive rehabilitation. The stiffness can also be avoided by keeping the knee moving quickly through some exercises.


The stabilization function of the knee is performed with the help of an ACL. However, due to the ACL tear, instability is seen in the knee. Even after the surgery of ACL, instability continues to happen. This happens when the ACL surgery is not performed in the correct manner.

Cyst Formation

In some rare cases, cysts are also formed in the graft after an ACL surgery. These cysts are not harmful and are removed themselves. But they can cause problems like knee pain, stiffness, clicking of the knee, etc.


There can be bleeding also at the site of an ACL surgery. It can be risky if the bleeding is in excessive amounts and is not soaked by the dressings or by applying pressure.

Is There Any Alternative for ACL Reconstruction Surgery?

If you are a person who is not active in sports, can’t afford the ACL surgery cost, or you have any other major injuries in your knee, then you can avoid the option of an ACL surgery treatment.

Without surgery, after the rehabilitation period, you can check whether the decision of not undergoing the surgery was correct or not in the following ways -

  • You must be able to climb the stairs.
  • You must not have any discomfort in the movement of your knee.
  • You must be able to ride a bicycle.
  • You must be able to get in and out of a car yourself.

Following are the alternatives that can be considered if you don't want to go for the surgery option -

  • You must get your entire knee area evaluated by the doctor since there are chances that you might have some other knee injuries as well.
  • You must follow the rehabilitation guidelines by taking proper rest and icing on your knee area.
  • You must do the exercises as suggested by your doctor. It will help to smoothen the functioning of your knee and regain its strength.
  • Perform some physical therapies if you want to return to physical activities.


If there is a minor tear in your ACL, it can heal itself by following various therapies. On the other hand, if it is torn completely and if you want to continue to stay active in sports, then you need to get it replaced. But if you are not active in sports and/or you are old, then your doctor would recommend you get it cured without any surgery.