PCL (Posterior Cruciate Ligament) Tear

The PCL is one of 4 major ligaments in the knee. It keeps the tibia (lower leg bone) from sliding posterior to the femur (thigh bone).

Symptoms:

  • Result of an injury to the knee. The most common causes of PCL tears are fall on the anterior knee or car accident. Sometimes a pop is felt or heard.
  • Pain, swelling and instability after the injury.
  • Often occur with other ligament or cartilage injuries.

Diagnosis:

  • X-rays are used to evaluate for fractures. Specific stress x-rays can evaluate laxity of the PCL.
  • MRI is often used to evaluate the extent of the PCL injury and any other injuries.

Treatment:

  • Initial treatment includes rest, physical therapy to strengthen the quadriceps.
  • Surgical reconstruction is recommended when a patient has persistent instability despite completion of a physical therapy program and adequate quadriceps strength.
  • Surgery involves reconstructing the PCL. Surgeons use donor tissue (allograft) or a patient’s own tissue (usually a portion of the quadriceps tendon) to reconstruct the PCL.

Post-operative Care:

  • Patients may need to stay in the hospital for 1-2 days after surgery for pain control.
  • Crutches and a brace (or splint) are used for about one month after surgery.
  • Physical therapy begins soon after surgery to regain range of motion and strength. Most patients need physical therapy for 3-6 months.
  • Full recovery is approximately 6-9 months after surgery. Many athletes take one year to fully recover before they return to athletics.

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