• Follow us on

Knee Reconstruction

The knee is a complex hinge joint and is held together by four ligaments. A ligament provides the joint with stability and the mobility to move as well as holding bones together. There are two ligaments on both sides of your knee known as collateral ligaments and two ligaments deep inside your knee. These two ligaments cross over each other and are called Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) and Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL).

The most common type of surgery for an ACL injury is reconstruction, which involves replacing a torn ligament with a tendon (graft) from the hamstrings or knee (patella). To reconstruct your ACL, an arthroscopic technique (‘keyhole’) is usually chosen. Surgery is followed by several months of rehabilitation to help restore your knee function.

What things do I need to do to be ready for surgery?

You will have received instructions from your doctor and the pre-admission clinic. The clinical nurse consultant will call you three days before your surgery to ensure you are on track with your preparations for surgery.

Please follow those instructions and complete the 'My checklist to be ready for surgery'.

What can I expect after my operation?

Operation and recovery - Your operation will usually take between one and two hours.  

You will then remain in the recovery area until you are awake enough to return to the ward.  

Lines and drains - When you return to your ward you may still need oxygen and you will have IV lines for fluid and pain medication. Your operated leg will be resting in a brace to keep it supported and protect it from movements that could harm the surgery you have had.

Diet - If you eat and drink normally straight after your operation it may cause you to feel sick.
Eating and drinking small amounts slowly will help to prevent this. You should be eating and drinking normally by day one following your operation.

Pain - It is normal to have some pain and discomfort after your surgery. However, it is important that your pain is controlled so you are able to cough, breathe deeply and do your exercises.
Please let someone know about your pain so it can be treated and managed.

Infection control - Every effort will be made to prevent infection. Hand hygiene is essential when recovering from this surgery. Please wash your hands regularly. Some doctors choose to prescribe antibiotics to help prevent infections.

Blood clot prevention - To help prevent blood clots forming in your legs (thromboembolism) your doctor may request that you wear a pair of white compression stockings as well as compression pumps after your surgery.
If your doctor has ordered stockings they can be removed for your shower and put back on afterwards. You may need to wear the stockings for six weeks after your operation.
Non-slip socks will also be provided. You may have blood-thinning medication which may continue when you go home. If your doctor orders this, your nurse will provide education for you or your carer to manage this when you go home.

Mobilising and exercising - Your physiotherapy will begin on the day of your operation.
You will be taught how to use crutches to keep weight off your operated leg.

Wound management - Keep your splint applied and continue with pain control. It is also important to wear your splint in the shower.
To keep your splint dry cover it with a large plastic bag.

Bowels - Bowel function can be affected by surgery and medication. To help your bowels return to normal function you may require bowel medication.
Increasing your water intake and eating food high in fibre will also help your bowel function to return to normal.

Going home - Depending on your recovery, it is anticipated you will be discharged the next day after your surgery. We aim for discharge from the ward to be 10 am.
Make sure the people helping you are aware of your discharge.

What complications could occur?

As with other operations, reconstruction involves a small risk of infection and blood vessel and nerve injury. The most common complications include pain in the front of the knee, loss of motions, swelling and persistent increased motion in the knee.

If you experience redness, pain or swelling in your limb, or shortness of breath, you must present to the Emergency Department immediately. These could be signs of a Deep Vein Thrombsis (DVT - blood clot in the leg vein ) or a Pulmonary Embolism (PE - blood clot in the lung).

What can I expect from my physiotherapist?

You can contribute greatly to the success of your operation by following the instructions of your health team. It is important to consider yourself as part of the team.

Physiotherapist: While you are in hospital your physiotherapist will give information on:

  • deep breathing and circulation
  • getting in and out of bed
  • sitting
  • walking
  • going up and down stairs
  • getting in and out of a car
  • taking precautions with your new knee as advised by your doctor.


What will it be like down the track—getting back into life

While time of recovery varies from patient to patient, strength and flexibility of your knee should steadily improve over the next 12 months.
Follow your doctor or physiotherapists advice on using crutches and keeping the advised amount of weight off the healing knee. You should be allowed to resume driving in six to eight weeks. Consult your doctor before driving. Recreational activities such as bowls, golf and gardening can usually resume after about three months.
Having prepared yourself well and participated actively in your treatment, you will be able to return quickly to a more active independent lifestyle.


Staff of Mater Hospital Brisbane, Allied Health and Mater at Home.

For more information about Mater Hospital Brisbane—South Brisbane, please call Reception on 07 3163 8111.


Mater acknowledges consumer consultation in the development of this patient information.
Mater Doc Num: PI-CLN-420080
Last modified 16/5/2019.
Consumers were consulted in the development of this patient information.
Last consumer engagement date: 13/8/2018
For further translated health information, you can visit healthtranslations.vic.gov.au/ supported by the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services that offers a range of patient information in multiple languages.
Share this pageAdd to Twitter Add to Facebook Add to LinkedIn Add to Google Bookmarks

Mercy. Dignity. Care. Commitment. Quality


Was this information helpful?


 Security code

Please note: we will endeavour to respond to your enquiry within five (5) business days.