PCL Tear – Symptoms
Symptoms of a PCL tear may include:
- Mild to moderate pain in the knee that causes difficulty while walking
- Rapid knee swelling, within hours of the injury
- Instability in the knee
If other parts of the knee have also been injured, the signs and symptoms will likely be more severe.
PCL Tear – Causes
A PCL tear can occur when –
- The knee is hit hard, mostly in sports like football
- The body lands directly on the knee during a fall
- The body lands hard on one leg, like in basketball
- The shinbone is hit hard in the front, mostly in car accidents
Although PCL tear is very common in 18- to 44-year olds, older adults are more prone to ligament injury.
PCL Tear – Diagnosis
PCL Tear diagnosis generally involves a physical examination and one or more imaging tests:
- Physical exam – The doctor will check the knee for injury, swelling, sagging or fluid in the joint and will examine the movement of the knee in different directions.
- X-ray – It can reveal any fractures in the bone attached to the posterior cruciate ligament. Ligament damage however, cannot be detected via X-ray.
- MRI scan – An MRI scan can clearly detect a PCL tear injuries to other parts of the knee.
- Arthroscopy – A tiny video camera is inserted into the knee joint through a small incision so that the doctor can view the insides of the joint in real-time on a screen.
PCL Tear – Treatment
Treatment depends on the extent of the injury and the time elapsed since the injury. In most cases, surgery can be avoided by –
- Medication, such as ibuprofen to reduce pain and swelling.
- Adequate rest and applying ice to affected area
- Wearing a knee brace to restrict side-to-side movement
- Crutches to reduce the body weight on the injured knee
- Therapy, to strengthen the knee and improve its function and stability
If the injury is severe or is combined with damage to other knee ligaments, cartilage or bone then PCL reconstruction surgery may be required.
The surgery can be performed arthroscopically by inserting a fiber-optic camera and surgical tools through several small incisions around the knee.
PCL Tear – Risks & Complications
If multiple structures (knee ligaments, cartilage, bones) are damaged along with a PCL tear, you might develop long-term knee pain and instability. You may be at a higher risk of developing arthritis in the affected knee in the future.
PCL reconstruction surgery can cause some complications including –
- neurovascular complications
- persistent posterior sag
- knee motion loss
- frontal knee pain & fractures
A detailed diagnosis and carefully executed surgical procedure can reduce the risk of these complications.
PCL Tear – Pre Op Care
- Inform the doctor about all your symptoms.
- Inform the doctor about previous knee injuries.
- Inform the doctor about fever or infection prior to the surgery.
- Inform the doctor about your and your family’s medical history.
- Inform the doctor about any medication or supplements you take.
- Avoid eating or drinking anything after midnight on the day before the surgery.
PCL Tear – Post Op Care
- Take the pain medication as prescribed by the doctor.
- You may use crutches after the surgery.
- You may use a restrictive brace to prevent the knee from bleeding.
- You may undergo physical therapy for 2-4 weeks.