If you tore your ACL, then your orthopedic doctor will likely recommend surgery to repair the ligament. It's really rare for torn ACLs to heal on their own, so surgery is usually necessary. After looking you over and analyzing your MRI, they'll let you know which surgical technique they're recommending — and often, that surgical technique will be an autograft procedure. If you're like most people, you don't quite know what an autograft is or what ACL autograft surgery involves. So, keep reading to find out!

What does autograft mean?

When you tear your ACL, your surgeon needs some tissue to repair it. That tissue can either be obtained from you, or it can be obtained from another person. The term "autograft" means the tissue used to repair your ACL will be obtained from your own body. If allograft surgery were to have been recommended, this would mean your doctor would use tissue from another person — usually a cadaver. 

What are the benefits of autograft surgery?

Autograft surgery is usually recommended for ACL repair because there is less risk of the patient reacting negatively to the graft. Your immune system is less likely to react to your own tissue than to the tissue of another person. Autograft surgery also tends to be less expensive. Plus, you can have the surgery performed at any time; you don't have to wait for the tissue to be available.

What are the drawbacks of autograft surgery?

In autograft surgery, the tissue used is usually from either your patellar tendon or your hamstring. This means that as you heal from ACL surgery, these tissues will also need to heal. This can take a little longer, but you'll be resting and healing anyways. 

What does the recovery period look like?

The recovery from autograft ACL surgery is usually about 9 months in total. However, you will be able to begin walking with crutches or some other assistive device after a week or two. And then you'll start physical therapy to get you back on your feet. Most people are able to return to work after a few weeks, as long as they do not have a very physical job. If you're an athlete, you may be able to begin working out after a few months, but you'll have to work your way back to your previous fitness level.

Hopefully, you now have a better idea of what autograft ACL surgery is and how to approach it. Talk to your surgeon to learn more.