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MCL Reconstruction Surgery with Dr. Van Thiel

Your knee is a major weight-bearing joint, and for proper function and stability, it needs to be held “in position” by four major fibrous bands of tissue called ligaments. Ligaments attach one bone to another. In the knee, the cruciate and collateral ligaments attach the femur (or thigh bone) to the tibia (the shin bone). The medial collateral ligament (MCL) is located on the inner side of the knee, and it works in tandem with the lateral collateral ligament (LCL) on the outer side of the knee to keep the joint properly aligned and prevent it from moving from side to side.

Like other knee ligament injuries, medial collateral ligament tears are graded according to their severity, from mild Grade 1 sprains to more serious Grade 3 injuries that cause the ligament to become completely torn. While Grade 1 injuries usually can heal with rest and physical therapy, Grade 2 (partial tears) and Grade 3 injuries may require surgery to rebuild and reconstruct the ligament so the knee's normal function and stability are restored. As a top-ranked orthopedic surgeon in the greater Chicago area, Dr. Geoffrey Van Thiel has extensive experience in MCL reconstruction techniques designed to restore joint function and stability.

What causes MCL injuries?

MCL injuries can be caused by twisting and overstretching the ligament, but often MCL tears occur when the knee is subjected to significant force. In most cases, the MCL is torn when a force pushes against the outside of the knee and bends the knee sideways in toward the other leg. Some MCL tears can occur when the knee is sharply pushed in the opposite direction. Like other ligament injuries, an MCL tear often occurs in conjunction with other damage to the knee, including soft tissue damage and tears to tendons and other ligaments.

What symptoms can be caused by an MCL tear?

If you have an MCL tear, your symptoms can vary depending on the severity of the tear and whether or not other ligaments or tendons are injured as well. Some of the most common signs and symptoms of an MCL tear are:

  • pain in the knee, specifically along the inside of the knee joint
  • swelling over the injured area
  • instability in the knee that causes the sensation that the knee will “give way” when you use it

Often, ligament injuries are accompanied by a “popping” or “snapping” sound when the ligament is stretched and torn.

Do you need MCL reconstruction surgery?

MCL repair and reconstruction are surgeries to rebuild the medial collateral ligament. While some tissues can be sutured back together after being torn, some ligament injuries require a different approach. In MCL reconstruction, the damaged ligament must be replaced with a graft taken from the patient or from a donor. The procedure is performed using an open incision over the joint, and the graft ligament is secured to the fibula and femur. Once the surgery is complete, you'll have several months of physical therapy to help restore the strength and function in your knee so you can get back to the activities you enjoy.

Before your surgery, Dr. Van Thiel will perform a comprehensive examination of your knee, followed by diagnostic imaging with X-rays or MRI. During the exam, Dr. Van Thiel will perform passive movement exercises to assess the position and function of the joint as well.

Find out what's causing your knee symptoms.

Knee instability isn't just painful; it can also lead to more serious injuries. If you're having pain or other symptoms in your knee related to a possible MCL tear, don't delay care. Call the office of Dr. Van Thiel at to schedule a consultation today.

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