What is a Multi-Ligament Knee Injury?
Four major ligaments help stabilize the knee joint and play a crucial role in normal knee function. The ligaments all work in unison to prevent unnatural and excessive movement between the tibia (shinbone) and femur (thighbone). When the knee is pushed beyond its normal limit, an injury can occur. One of the most common injuries found in the athletic population is torn ligaments within the knee. One or more ligaments can be torn which causes pain, swelling and progressive instability. Patients in the Santa Barbara, Goleta, Santa Maria and Ventura, California area who have experienced a multi-ligament knee injury are encouraged to call Dr. Jervis Yau, knee specialist, for an orthopedic consultation.
How do Multi-Ligament Knee Injuries Occur?
High energy injuries such as motor vehicle accidents, fall from height and traumatic sports injury are the typical causes of multi-ligament knee injury. The degree of trauma from these injuries may cause serious damage to the nerves and blood vessels that course through the back of the knee. Therefore, patients who are experiencing severe pain, swelling, deformity and instability from an acute knee injury are encouraged by Dr. Yau to go to their local Emergency Room immediately.
The four main ligaments within the knee joint include:
- Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) – located in the middle of the knee
- Posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) — located just behind the ACL
- Medial collateral ligament (MCL) — located on the medial knee between the femur and tibia
- Lateral collateral ligament (or fibular collateral ligament) — located on the lateral knee between the femur and the fibula
What are the Symptoms of a Multi-Ligament Knee Injury?
A multi-ligament knee injury is marked by immediate pain, instability and difficulty moving the joint. Patients may also experience swelling, bruising and the inability to apply weight to the injured leg. Many patients report a “popping” sound at the time of the injury. In extreme cases, patients may also experience tingling, weakness, numbness or coolness due to injury of the surrounding nerves and blood vessels.
How are Multi-Ligament Knee Injuries Diagnosed?
Patients with multi-ligament knee injury are encouraged to seek prompt medical care at their local Emergency Room. If the major arteries and veins passing through the knee are injured, the leg will be at risk and may need emergent surgical intervention.
Dr. Yau will complete a thorough medical review, physical examination, and order specific diagnostic tests. X-rays will help to determine any bone injuries while a MRI scan will define the knee ligaments in detail. If the blood supply is potentially damaged, special imaging will be needed to assess the location of the vascular injury along with a consultation with the vascular surgeon.