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LCL Tear Surgery Options with Dr. Van Thiel

The lateral collateral ligament or LCL is one of four strong ligaments that connect the bones of the knee joint. The other three main ligaments include the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) and the medial collateral ligament (MCL). All four ligaments work together to stabilize the knee, hold the bones in their proper positions, and support bending, weight-bearing and normal joint function. While the ACL and PCL are attached to the centers of the ends of both the femur (or thigh bone) and the tibia (or shin bone), the collateral ligaments (the LCL and the MCL) are attached to the sides of the femur and the fibula, the smaller of the two bones in the lower leg. The LCL is located on the outside of the knee joint while the medial collateral ligament is located on the inside of the joint.

Like the other ligaments of the knee, the LCL can become injured by significant stretching and twisting with either partial tearing (sometimes referred to as a Grade 2 sprain) or by a complete tear of the ligament (called a Grade 3 sprain). While mild (Grade 1) sprains that involve no tearing may heal with rest and therapy, ligament tears require surgery to reconstruct the fibrous band of tissue and restore stability and function in the joint. The surgery that's used to repair lateral collateral ligaments is called LCL reconstruction, and with proper followup including physical therapy customized for your needs, you can restore stability and function in your knee and get back to your active lifestyle.

What causes LCL injuries?

LCL injuries aren't uncommon, and they can occur when other ligaments, like the ACL or PCL, are injured. Often, LCL tears are caused by twisting or pivoting movements that wrench the thigh and fibula in opposite directions, causing the ligament to twist, strain, and ultimately tear. But they can also be caused by direct-impact injuries like falls or injuries that cause you to strike the inside of your knee sharply against a surface. When the knee joint is struck on the inside surface, it pushes the joint sideways and increases pressure on the LCL on the outside of the joint.

What symptoms are associated with lateral collateral ligament tears?

To some degree, LCL tear symptoms will vary depending on whether the tear is partial or complete. Most people with LCL tears have symptoms like:

What is lateral collateral ligament reconstruction?

LCL tear surgery (or LCL reconstruction) is a procedure that uses special techniques to restore and rebuild the lateral collateral ligament. While some other tissues can be repaired by carefully suturing the ends of the torn tissue together, that approach cannot be used with ligaments that are exposed to frequent use and substantial weight-bearing and strain. Instead, the damaged ligament must be replaced with a graft which may be taken from elsewhere in your body or from an outside donor.

Before LCL surgery, you'll have a thorough exam and evaluation of your knee joint, and you'll also have diagnostic imaging to evaluate the ligament damage. The surgery itself is performed using an “open” technique with an incision made over the joint to expose the femur and tibia so the damaged ligament can be removed and the graft can be securely attached. After surgery, you'll have several months of therapy to help restore stability, strength and function in your knee so you can get back to the activities you enjoy.

Do you need LCL tear surgery?

As major weight-bearing joints, the knees are a common cause of pain and related symptoms which are often significant enough to have an impact on your mobility and your quality of life. A board-certified orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist, Dr. Geoffrey Van Thiel helps patients of all ages and all activity levels get the care they need to restore joint function, relieve painful symptoms, and enjoy the activities they love.

If you have knee pain and believe you may need LCL tear surgery, call the office of Dr. Geoffrey Van Thiel at to schedule a consultation.

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