Accessibility Tools

Your knee contains several major ligaments that help the joint move and function properly - specifically, the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), the medial collateral ligament (MCL) and the lateral collateral ligament (LCL). Each of these ligaments can become stretched or torn, requiring specific techniques to repair damage and restore joint function. In fact, ligament injuries are relatively common among athletes and other physically-active people, and without proper medical attention, they can cause substantial mobility problems.

Sometimes, though, an injury can result in damage to more than one ligament. Often, multi-ligament injuries occur following high-impact sports injuries or motor vehicle accidents. When that happens, complex knee ligament reconstruction is required to repair the ligaments and restore normal joint movement in the knee. This is a very complicated procedure and should be addressed by a specialist.

What symptoms are associated with complex ligament injuries?

Most ligament injuries are accompanied by a popping or snapping noise, caused when the ligament stretches beyond its normal limits and either snaps back into place or tears, either partially or completely. Soon after, pain and swelling occur and the knee will feel stiff and weak or unstable. The kneecap (or patella) also may become dislocated, sliding to one side or the other. A physical evaluation and diagnostic imaging using MRI technology can provide important information about the location and extent of the injury in addition to helping guide treatment.

How are multi-ligament knee injuries treated?

Dr. Geoffrey Van Thiel, a renowned surgeon for knee injuries, has extensive experience in repairing and reconstructing ligament tears. In most patients, one of two techniques are used to treat multi-ligament knee injuries:

  • Autograft reconstruction: In an autograft reconstruction, Dr. Van Thiel uses a tendon graft harvested from patient - typically the patellar or hamstring tendon - to reconstruct the torn ligament so it functions normally again. Autograft procedures usually are used in young, highly-active patients who want to return to their same level of activity following their recovery.
  • Allograft reconstruction: Allograft procedures use ligament grafts harvested from donors. These procedures can be a good choice for men and women who don't participate in advanced competitive sports and who want to have a faster recovery period.

Once the surgical repair is completed, you may need to wear a knee brace during the initial stages of healing to support the knee while the new ligament graft “takes hold,” and you'll also have several weeks of physical therapy to restore normal movement and strength in the knee joint and the surrounding muscles. Physical therapy and at-home exercises can help stabilize the knee joint to help prevent future injuries as well.

Don't ignore your knee pain;

Seek out a qualified surgeon for knee injuries.

While a few patients may opt to ignore ligament damage in the knee, there's a significant chance the resulting knee instability will lead to chronic dislocations and serious joint damage, not to mention a lot of pain. Surgical reconstruction of ligament tears helps restore normal joint function and eliminate pain so you can get back to the activities you enjoy, without discomfort or fear of causing additional damage to the joint. Dr. Van Thiel is a leading sports medicine specialist in the greater Chicago region, helping patients relieve knee pain and resolve the issues that cause it. To find out what's causing your knee pain and to learn more about state-of-the-art ligament reconstruction and other procedures, call OrthoIllinois at and schedule a consultation and evaluation with Dr. Van Thiel.

Locations & Directions