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Patient Care

Your Care at Home After ACL Surgery

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Follow these instructions for your care at home, unless your doctor or therapist has given you other instructions.

Follow up appointments

  • If you do not have a follow up appointment scheduled, call your doctor’s office today or tomorrow to get an appointment scheduled for 5 to 10 days after surgery.
  • Be sure to also ask for a physical therapy appointment if you do not have one scheduled.

Protect your knee

  • You are encouraged to bear as much weight as you are able on your surgery leg. Use crutches as needed for support and balance until you can walk normally.
  • Do not bend your knee more than 90 degrees if you have had a meniscus repair.
  • Elevate your leg for your comfort and to limit swelling.
  • Your thigh may be numb for a day or two following your surgery. You are at risk of falling during this time. Be careful standing and walking as your thigh muscles may not be fully functional and may not be able to support your weight.
  • The effects of anesthesia remain for 24 hours or longer. Do not drive, operate equipment or make important decisions during this time. These restrictions also apply while you are on prescription pain medication.

Cold therapy (Cryocuff)

  • Use your cold therapy unit (Cryocuff) for the first 48 hours after surgery.
  • Do not leave the temperature set to maximal coldness. If the temperature reads into the red area, unplug and restart it.
  • After that, use it for 20 minutes four to six times during the day. After the bulky dressing is removed (three days after surgery), do not apply the cold pad directly to the skin. Be sure to place a soft cloth between your skin and the cold therapy pad to protect your skin.
  • If blisters or redness appears, discontinue cold therapy on the affected area.
  • If you have any questions about your cold therapy machine, please call 614-293-2754.

Incision care

  • Keep the dressing clean and dry for 72 hours
  • Remove the bulky dressing after 72 hours. Leave the tape strips (called steri-strips) in place, even if they are bloody. You may want to use small gauze pads or band-aids over the incisions to keep the stitches from catching on your Ace wrap.
  • Use an Ace wrap to control swelling or for comfort. Start the wrap at the lower leg and work your way up above the knee. Do not wear the Ace wrap at night unless you are told otherwise.
  • Do not apply any ointment or cream to the incisions.


  • Keep the incisions dry for three days. You may sponge bathe around the incisions.
  • After three days, you may shower, but do not let the water spray hit your incisions. Only let the water gently run over the incisions. Gently pat the incisions dry with a clean towel or gauze pad.
  • Do not soak the incisions in a tub bath, pool or hot tub until 24 hours after your stitches are removed.


  • If you were given a prescription for an anti-inflammatory medicine, be sure to take it as directed until it is gone.
  • Your prescription pain medication may cause constipation. You may want to take an over-the-counter stool softener.


  • Do the exercises as you were instructed before leaving the hospital. Do your exercises even if it feels uncomfortable. You should start your exercises the day of surgery if you are able. You will not cause any damage to your knee.
  • Do 200 straight leg raises each day. Do not put a pillow under the knee but use a towel roll under your heel.
  • Work on both getting your leg straight and bending your knee to 90 degrees.
  • Your surgeon will determine if you will need a knee brace or continuous passive motion (CPM) machine after ACL reconstruction.
  • You will be given more exercises at the first physical therapy appointment 5 to 10 days after surgery.
  • If you are going to an outside physical therapy facility (not part of OSU), they will require a written prescription and a copy of the rehab protocol. Please call our office with the facility's fax number so we can send these in advance of your PT appointment.

Call your doctor right away if you have:

Signs of infection at the incisions:

  • Redness, swelling or warmth of the skin
  • Pus or changes in the amount or color of the drainage
  • Fever or temperature over 101 degrees F

Signs of blood clot (DVT):

  • Pale/cool or red/swollen extremity
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath

Uncontrolled pain, swelling, nausea or vomitting

Bleeding that is not controlled with direct pressure. Some oozing is normal during the first two days after surgery.

Calling the doctor

Dr. Julie Bishop 614/293-0694
Dr. Anne Marie Chicorelli 303/202-3420
Dr. David Flanigan 614/293-2413
Dr. Grant Jones 614/293-8293
Dr. Christopher Kaeding 614/293-8813
Dr. Robert Magnussen 614/366-9324
Dr. Timothy Miller 614/688-7160
Dr. John Sharkey 614/293-2663

If you are calling after hours, on weekends or holidays, the phone will be answered by an answering service. Ask that they page the orthopaedic doctor on call.