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Patellar Tendon Graft For ACL Tears – The Pros and Cons

The anterior cruciate ligament, commonly referred to as the ACL, is a significant component in maintaining stabilization in the knee. Unfortunately, it’s also a ligament that is often injured, especially in athletes. But, even if you are not an athlete, you are still prone to an ACL injury on the job, or even at home with a slip and fall.

When this injury occurs, it’s quite common to face reconstructive surgery to restore the knee and gain back normal function for even everyday basic activities.

Fortunately, within the past decade or more, technology and modern medicine have improved surgical techniques, which not only help with the results, but also the recovery. If facing ACL reconstruction, you will most likely be considered for a graft. While there is more than one type, this article is going to focus on the patellar tendon graft, especially the pros and cons.

So, just what is a patellar tendon graft?

What is a Patellar Tendon Graft?

An option for ACL reconstruction is a patellar tendon graft. This is when the graft is garnered from an anterior (front) incision on your knee. The graft is actually taken around 10mm into the patellar tendon, which is about the middle third portion.

Small segments of bone are also taken from the tibia, as well as the patella, giving this type of graft tiny bone plugs on both ends.

However, as with any surgery, there are both pros and cons to consider before having it done.

The Pros and Cons of a Patellar Tendon Graft

One of the biggest advantages is that many physicians and surgeons prefer to recommend the patellar tendon graft, because it is the closest to resembling the torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). The length of both the ACL and the patellar tendon are similar.

Also, the bone segments on the end of the graft can be placed right on the bone itself, where the ACL is attached to the bone, making it a bone-to-bone healing process…and considered to be one of the strongest healing methods available.

Now, of course there are also a couple of disadvantages to mention as well. First, due to the segment of bone that is removed from the kneecap during the graft surgery, as well as approximately 1/3 of the tendon, there is a slight weakening of both bone and tendon. Unfortunately, this could lead to a higher risk of patellar fractures or a patellar tendon tear, following your surgery.

In addition, one of the chief complaints stemming from the patellar tendon graft is pain located in the front of the knee. You can expect pain with most surgeries, sure. But, it’s not uncommon to hear patients complain about pain in their knee, especially while kneeling, even a few years after recovery.

If you are experiencing an ACL injury, check with your physician to see what your options are, and which one would be best for your individual situation.