What is pediatric ACL surgery?

The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) connects the femur to the tibia in the center of the knee joint and is one of the most commonly injured ligaments. Pediatric ACL surgery refers to the concept of individualizing the specific surgery to match the unique anatomy of your child’s knee.

At the family-friendly Emory Sport Medicine Complex, Dr. Karas has used his 25+ years of specialized expertise in orthopedic sports medicine to provide excellent care to professional athletes and local elementary school students alike. Contemporary science now allows Dr. Karas to overcome the unique challenges of pediatric ACL surgery.

children playing football | pediatric ACL surgery

Nonanatomic vs anatomic surgery

Even in a child or adolescent, ACL fibers cannot heal on their own due to irreversible stretching damage at the time of the injury. Thus, surgery is required. Avoiding complications associated with traditional, nonanatomic pediatric ACL reconstruction will ensure the safety and health of your child when they return to sports.

Traditional, nonanatomic methods are complicated by:

  • Open growth plates (actively growing areas near the ends of your child’s bones that begin as cartilage and, once your child is done growing, harden into solid bone)
  • Damage to the open growth plates in the knee during outdated, traditional pediatric ACL surgery effects the long term health of your child’s knee:
    • Rotational instability: knee looseness that results in the lower leg rotating more than it should in relation to the thigh
    • Meniscus tears: torn pieces of knee cartilage move around in the small spaces between the bones of the joint, becoming caught, causing pain and blocking natural movement
    • Cartilage injury: causing pain and swelling and resulting in degenerative joint diseases, like osteoarthritis

Anatomic pediatric ACL surgery:

  • Anatomic surgery involves the use of a graft (living tissue from the patient’s own body or from a donor), which restores the stability of your child’s knee closer to the natural ability of a healthy ACL
  • During surgery, live, real-time video x-rays are utilized to place the graft in the ideal anatomic position, while preventing damage to your child’s growth plate by avoiding the growth plate altogether
  • Because the graft is placed in an anatomic position, rotational instability and the complications that result from it are controlled