Lateral collateral ligament (LCL) reconstruction

Reconstructive surgery to the lateral collateral ligament (LCL) which connects the thigh bone to the calf bone.

About lateral collateral ligament (LCL) reconstruction

Lateral collateral ligament (LCL) reconstruction surgery involves using a tendon from your own body to replace the torn LCL.

There are several ligaments that provide stability to your knee joint – the cruciate ligaments in the middle of the joint and the lateral ligaments which run along the sides of the joint.

The LCL is on the outside, and connects the thigh bone to the calf bone.

The most common way to tear the LCL is as a result of a blow to the inside of the knee, which forces the joint outwards. It's also possible to tear it as a result of repeated stress during sports that involve a lot of sudden stops, twisting and turning.

Symptoms can include:

  • a feeling that your knee may give way
  • locking or catching in the joint
  • mild to acute pain
  • stiffness
  • swelling and tenderness along the outside of the knee.

Your consultant may recommend surgery if your LCL damage cannot be helped by physiotherapy and your symptoms don't improve.

How is LCL surgery carried out?

LCL surgery is carried under general anaesthetic, so you will be asleep during the operation.

Your orthopaedic surgeon makes a vertical cut on the outside of your knee and will take a section of tendon from elsewhere in your body – usually from the thigh or knee.

If the ligament is completely torn, a tendon is grafted into the bones where it was attached, providing a bridge or scaffolding to help the ligament to grow back.

They will then drill small holes in your thigh bone and shin bone, and insert the ends of the tendon. This graft is fixed in place with screws or staples.

The cut is then stitched closed and a dressing is applied.

Recovering from LCL surgery

You should be able to go home the next day after surgery.

It usually takes about six weeks for a graft to heal, although it takes roughly 12 weeks for it to become fully attached.

During the first six weeks, you might need to wear a leg brace to limit the movement of your knee, and you'll need to use crutches to keep the weight off it.

Your physiotherapist will give you some gentle exercises to help build up the muscles and mobility of your knee. You should be able to use an exercise bike once you are off your crutches.

You should be able to return to work four to six weeks after the operation, if your job isn't physically demanding. Those with more active jobs will need a longer recovery time.

It usually takes six months to make a full recovery and return to sports.

“I had a great experience at the Cromwell Hospital; the staff were amazing, and is another level of professionalism compared to other hospitals I’ve stayed in.”

Lorne, Bupa Cromwell patient

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Published: 10 December 2019 | Review: 10 December 2022

Disclaimer: This information is published by Cromwell Hospital and is based on reputable sources of medical evidence and experience from over 30 years of treating patients. It has been peer reviewed by Cromwell Hospital doctors. The content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional. If you have any feedback on the content of this patient information document please email info@cromwellhospital.com or telephone 020 7460 5901.