Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL) Repair
Pronounced: pos-tea-ree-or kru-shee-ate lig-a-ment
by Michael Jubinville, MPH
Posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) surgery is the repair of a ligament in the knee. When possible, the torn ligament fibers are reattached to each other. The addition of tendon or other tissue may be needed to reconstruct severely damaged ligaments.
Reasons for Procedure TOP
The PCL is one of the ligaments that connect the lower leg bone to the thigh bone. It helps to stabilize the knee during movement. PCL surgery is done to repair or replace the ligament after it is torn.
PCL surgery may be considered if:
Possible Complications TOP
Potential problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
Before your procedure, talk to your doctor about ways to manage factors that may increase your risk of complications such as:
What to Expect TOP
Prior to Procedure
The following will be done before the procedure:
You will need to:
You may need to stop taking some medications up to one week before the surgery. Talk to your doctor about any medications that may need to be stopped.
Do not eat or drink anything after midnight the day before your surgery, unless told otherwise by your doctor.
The type of anesthesia will depend on your medical history and extent of your injury. Options may include:
Description of Procedure TOP
The procedure is most often done with a minimally invasive procedure. Small incisions are made around the knee. Special tools will create paths in the incisions for surgical tools to pass.
If enough of the ligament is intact, the surgeon may simply secure the damaged PCL back onto the bone. Tears in the ligament itself will be repaired with sutures. The ligament may also be secured to the bone with sutures.
Reconstruction involves the use of tendon tissue from another part of the body or from a donor cadaver. The remains of the damaged ligament are cleaned away from the knee joint. Small incisions are made in the surface of the thighbone and shinbone inside the knee. The donated tendon is threaded through these incisions and secured with screws or staples. Over time the bone will grow over the tendon to form a tight connection.
Once the graft is securely in place, the doctor will test the knee’s range of motion.
When either procedure is done, the skin will be closed with stitches. Bandages will be placed on the knee.
Immediately After Procedure TOP
Breathing, blood pressure, and vital signs will be monitored in a recovery room after the procedure.
How Long Will It Take? TOP
Up to 2 hours depending on what needs to be done.
How Much Will It Hurt? TOP
Anesthesia will prevent pain during surgery. Pain and discomfort after the procedure can be managed with medications.
Post-procedure Care TOP
At the Care Center
While at the care center, the staff will:
During your stay, the care staff will take steps to reduce your chance of infection such as:
There are also steps you can take to reduce your chances of infection such as:
Recovery will focus on pain relief and rehabilitation. A knee immobilizer and crutches will be used during early recovery to keep you mobile but decrease stress on the knee. You can gradually return to regular activity as recommended by your doctor.
Home exercise or physical therapy will be needed to maintain strength and mobility in the leg.
Complete recovery can take 6-9 months.
Follow your doctor's instructions.
Call Your Doctor TOP
Contact your doctor if your recovery is not progressing as expected or you develop complications such as:
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Sports Med—American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
Knee ligament repair. John Hopkins Medicine website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed February 11, 2016.
Rosenthal MD, Rainey CE, et al. Evaluation and management of posterior cruciate ligament injuries. Phys Ther Sport. 2012;13(4):196-208.
Last reviewed March 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Warren A. Bodine, DO, CAQSM
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