How to Prepare for ACL Surgery

How to Get Ready for ACL Surgery

ACL surgery prep
ACL surgery prep.

If you are scheduled for arthroscopic ACL surgery, there are some actions you can take to be better prepared for surgery and have a faster recovery.

Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries of the knee are commonly treated with outpatient arthroscopic ACL surgery. In most cases, ACL surgery is scheduled far enough in advance to allow time for a patient and a surgeon to work together and develop a pre-surgery plan.

Most surgeons will provide a patient with pre-surgery instructions and answer any questions the patient may have well before surgery. Patients who follow these instructions and have appropriate expectations of the surgery tend to have a better surgical outcome and a faster recovery than patients who are less informed about the surgical procedure.

Preparing for ACL Surgery

Being prepared for your ACL surgery often results in a better surgical experience. The following list provides basic recommendations for preparing for a successful ACL surgery.

  • Discuss Your Diagnosis. Be sure to thoroughly discuss with your doctor the details of your ACL injury, including the causes and treatment options.
  • Ask Questions. Make sure you understand the potential risks, limitations, and benefits of the ACL surgery.
  • Talk With Other Patients. If possible, talk with someone who has had the same procedure to learn first-hand what to expect.
  • Understand The Surgery. Ask your doctor for details about how the surgery will be performed, and set appropriate expectations for both the day of surgery and the amount of time you will need to rehab.
  • Get Healthy. Ask your surgeon what physical preparation you can do to ensure optimal health and faster recovery from surgery. In most cases, you will be advised to stop smoking and eat a healthy diet for several weeks prior to surgery to ensure adequate nutrition for healing.
  • Stay Strong. Ask your surgeon what prehab strengthening exercises you can do before surgery in order to recover faster. In many cases you will be able to swim or bicycle without causing further damage to the knee.
  • Protect Your Knee. Also ask what activities you need to avoid before surgery to limit any further damage to the knee.
  • Practice Using Crutches. Using crutches takes practice. Some surgeons advise patents to get comfortable using crutches in the weeks prior to surgery so you will be less likely to fall or stumble immediately after surgery.
  • Ask About Your Medications. You may need to stop taking some medications prior to surgery so discuss all your current prescriptions with your surgeon.
  • Inform Your Surgeon of Changes in Your Health. ACL surgery may need to be delayed if you have a fever or infection, so be sure to keep your surgeon advised of any changes in your health in the days prior to surgery.
  • Follow Pre-op Instructions. Follow all pre-surgery preparation instructions, including what and when to eat and drink the night before or how to clean the surgical area.
  • Arrange Transportation. ACL surgery is typically an outpatient procedure and you will go home the same day. Because you will be on medications, you'll need someone to drive you home.
  • Dress Comfortably. On the day of surgery, be sure to wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing that will fit comfortably over your knee bandages or brace.
  • Practice Relaxation Techniques. Use relaxation exercises or podcasts to maintain a confident and relaxed state of mind and reduce any anxiety you may have about undergoing surgery.
  • Get Support. Have personal support with you. Bringing a friend or loved one is a good way to help you stay relaxed before and after surgery.
  • Plan Ahead. Keep in mind that you will be less active for six to eight weeks after the surgery. You should make arrangements for necessary assistance and help at home long before surgery.
  • Notify Others. Inform anyone who needs to be aware of your limitations after surgery. Notify your employer, school or team to make necessary arrangements in your schedule.
  • Contact Your Insurance Provider. Contact your insurance provider regarding your health benefit and out-of-pocket costs for an ACL surgery.


ACL Injury Guide. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). Nov. 15, 2007

Santa Monica Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Research Foundation, ACL Injury Prevention Project Accessed 10-9-2009.

Continue Reading