Reconstructive ACL surgery: My surgery experience

Posted on December 27, 2011

(Last Updated On: December 8, 2017)

My ACL surgery was December 23rd at 7:30am. I figured I’d write a little about my experience.

The most nerve wracking part was walking into this big ass operating room. There are 5 people there, all for you, and one chair in the middle of the room, just for you. I felt like I was walking into one of those science experiments where everyone is sitting outside peering through the glass observing and taking notes. Almost like a theater.

To the anesthesiologist’s credit, about 5 seconds after walking in he goes “Feeling some nerves right about now?” Definitely.

I laid down on the chair, had a couple of needles put in me, and next thing I know I’m feeling pretty comfortable (the drugs are hitting me). After this the anesthesiologist started working with the nerve block. Half scary, half cool. They insert a needle into the head of your femur (big thigh bone) until your quadriceps start twitching. This signals the block is in the right area.

The block is to prevent any pain during the immediate postop phase. The thing is, and the anesthesiologist was very good about informing me of this, the block only prevents pain down the front of the leg. If you get a hamstring graft for your ACL surgery, like I did, you may still feel pain down the back of the leg.

After this phase the doctor goes “Alright, here’s the oxygen mask” and 1, 2, 3…I’m waking up in the recovery room.

An interesting aside: I’ve mentioned I’ve had issues with anesthesia before. (I wake up often.) Apparently there are some differences between the anesthesia done in an ER and the anesthesia done in surgery. Each time I mentioned my past issues with anesthesia it was essentially dismissed once the medical person found out my prior experiences were in the ER. Nobody thought much of it. And again, to their credit, I was knocked the hell out for 5 hours. No issues at all.

The worst part was coming out of the anesthesia. As soon as I woke up I had noticeable pain in the harvested hamstring. The nurses immediately upped the pain medication I was on and that dissipated quickly.

Next, understandably, the surgeon was gone. This was just a pain in the ass because I was extremely eager to know what, exactly, the surgeon did. I didn’t know if my meniscus was repaired or cut, how the reconstruction went, there was no written report yet, etc.

I was DEATHLY thirsty too. However, due to possible nausea, you aren’t allowed to drink much until a couple hours after you’re awake. This was horrible.

The other side effect of the anesthesia and drugs was being dizzy. Anybody who has outpatient surgery knows they want to get your ass out of there as soon as reasonable. Getting on crutches was pretty damn tough though. Not due to pain, but balance.

All told the surgery took about 3 and a half hours. Apparently pretty long for this type of surgery. My ACL was reconstructed with a hamstring graft, my medial meniscus had a very large tear which, thankfully, was able to be repaired. Lastly, I had some unexpected fraying on the lateral meniscus, which was taken care of too.

Overall my knee was pretty damn banged up. But the surgery went pretty smoothly too.

As far as what exercises and such I did after the surgery, check that out here: Reconstructive ACL Surgery: Physical Therapy Day 1.

Here are some pictures:

Meniscus tear photo scope

My meniscus tear. The tear is on the right.


Probe showing the length of the tear.


Meniscus repair surgery

Probe showing the width of the tear. It was “very big.”


Reconstructive ACL surgery

The drill put through my bones to make a tunnel for my new ACL


Bone tunnel for my new ACL


See how I made a full recovery by starting with the most important phase of ACL rehab


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