How is an ACL injury diagnosed?
The orthopaedic surgeon will want to know the history of the knee injury
and will determine if the signs and symptoms of an ACL injury are present.
After taking a history, the orthopaedic surgeon will perform a physical
examination. The doctor will perform manual tests on the knee to determine
the amount of instability that exists. The Lachman Test,
Anterior Drawer Test, and
Shift Test are exams the doctor may use to see how much the tibia
moves in relation to the femur.
Pain, swelling, and muscle spasms in the early stages of an injury may
make it difficult for the doctor to diagnose the degree of instability
with manual tests. An arthrometer, a machine that
measures joint looseness in the knee, may be used.
X-rays can reveal signs of bone fractures, chips, or arthritis.
Since X-rays can only show bone, a Magnetic Resonance Image (MRI)
may be ordered to assess damage to soft tissue such as ligaments, tendons,
and cartilage. An MRI is a non-operative procedure that allows the surgeon
to determine the amount of damage to the ACL and any other structures
of the knee.
further testing is needed to clearly evaluate the problem, an arthroscopy
may be recommended. During an arthroscopy, a tiny fiberoptic scope
is inserted into the joint. The doctor uses this scope to visually assess
the damage. In most cases, a diagnosis can be made without using this
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