PCL Tears Treatment Options
Posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) injury happens far less often than does injury to the knee’s more vulnerable counterpart, the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). Although a PCL injury generally causes less pain, disability and knee instability than does an ACL tear, it can still sideline you for several weeks or months.
Types of PCL injuries
Like other types of tendon injuries, PCL injuries are classified according to a traditional grading system.
- Grade I – A mild injury causes only microscopic tears in the ligament. Although these tiny tears can stretch the PCL out of shape, they do not significantly affect the knee’s ability to support your weight.
- Grade II (moderate) – The PCL is partially torn, and the knee is somewhat unstable, meaning it gives out periodically when you stand, walk or have diagnostic tests.
- Grade III (severe) – The PCL is either completely torn or is separated at its end from the bone that it normally anchors, and the knee is more unstable. Because it usually takes a large amount of force to cause a severe PCL injury, patients with Grade III PCL sprains often also have sprains of the ACL or collateral ligaments or other significant knee injuries.
Treatment for an PCL injury is clearly dependent on the severity of the PCL injury. Most injuries can be treated non operatively with rest, ice, compression, elevation and a special brace that keeps the knee in good position while the ligament heals. Tears that do not heal, patients that complain about instability or tears that are associated with other ligament injuries can be treated with surgery.
Immediate treatment is indicated for all PCL injuries. Immediate treatment is usually sufficient to treat Grade 1 and 2 PCL injuries. Immediate treatment for PCL injuries includes the following:
- applying ice to reduce swelling
- elevating your knee to reduce swelling
- placing the knee in a splint to limit movement
- taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to ease pain and swelling
- compressing your knee using an elastic bandage or brace
- using crutches to keep weight off of your injured knee
- and, simply resting
Immediate treatment is usually recommended for 72 hours or until good range of motion has been achieved. Once pain and swelling have gone down, a physical therapy rehabilitation program may be indicated.
A PCL Injury rehabilitation program is designed to gradually strengthen the muscles around the knee (especially the quadriceps), support the knee joint and helps to prevent the knee from future injuries.
- physical therapy to strengthen muscles and improve your knee’s range of motion
- wearing a protective knee brace during physical activity to keep the knee in a good position
- limiting activities that can cause further injury, such as contact sports
Midwest Orthopedics at Rush has one of the nation’s premier physical therapy and rehabilitation programs. It may take a week to eight weeks to completely recover from a Grade 1 or 2 MCL injury. Your recovery is dependent upon the severity of your injury, proper diagnosis, and care provided by your orthopedic team.
PCL Reconstructive Surgery
If you’ve suffered from a Grade 3 PCL Tear, PCL reconstructive surgery will likely be indicated. PCL tears usually occur in combination with other injuries to the knee. Therefore, while your orthopedic surgeon is surgically repairing your other injuries, they’ll simultaneously be able to reconstruct your PCL tear.
Rebuilding the ligament
With some ligament injuries reconstructive surgery entails sewing the torn ligament back together. With PCL Tears, sewing the ligament ends back together has a poor efficacy. Therefore, with PCL reconstructive surgery, the torn ligament is replaced with a tissue graft, instead of repaired. This graft is taken from another part of your body, or from another human donor (cadaver). It can take several months for the graft to heal into your bone.
Surgery to rebuild a PCL Tear is done with an arthroscope using small incisions. Arthroscopic surgery is minimally invasive. The benefits of less invasive techniques include less pain from surgery, less time spent in the hospital, and quicker recovery times.
Schedule a consultation
If you’re suffering from an PCL injury, schedule a consultation with board-certified orthopedic surgeon Dr. Jorge Chahla in Chicago, IL. Dr. Chahla is part of Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush an internationally renowned orthopedic group. Dr. Chahla is renowned in his own right as one the nation’s leading sports medicine orthopedic surgeons. During your consultation, Dr. Chahla can properly diagnose and discuss the appropriate treatment options for you.
At a Glance
Dr. Jorge Chahla
- Triple fellowship-trained sports medicine surgeon
- Performs over 500 surgeries per year
- Professor of orthopedic surgery at Rush University
- Learn more