When signing up to be an organ donor you usually think only your major organs will be used; however, something as small as a ligament of yours is used in popular surgeries such as anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstructions. When someone tears their ACL they usually have a choice to have an autograft, or use one of their own ligaments, but they can also choose to have an allograft, or take a cadaver’s ligament to repair it. Each has it’s advantages and disadvantages, but I personally think that the better option is the allograft because I think the advantages are better than using your own ligament from another part of your body. The advantages consist of faster operative time, less post-operative pain, and a faster recovery time.
When taking a cadaver’s ligament it decreases the time of the operation. Since the surgeon doesn’t have to take time to harvest and prepare the allograft as he or she would have to do with an autograft it saves a little time. The big time saver though is not having to make two different incisions and not having to cut the tendon that would be taken from the patient. This advantage is perfect for the many people who can’t be under anesthesia for that long (Cluett). Since the operative time is faster due to not having to make two different incisions, the pain after the operation is a lot less painful than the autograft.
Less post-operative pain is due to no incisions in the patellar tendon or the severing of the hamstring tendon to obtain the graft. The only pain you will be left with is the actual site of the ACL rather than additionally having pain in the tendon that would have been cut. Janice Lloyd, the medical reporter from USA Today states, when using a cadaver ligament the incision is usually smaller thus creating less pain on the incision site (Lloyd). Lifting of the leg is much easier and a lot less painful since the hamstring was not bothered; however, bending is still going to be just as painful since the ACL is the major ligament being pulled when you bend the knee. Less pain significantly helps lead to a faster recovery.
The Recovery is essentially faster in an allograft because of many reasons. Dr. Zane Uhland, an Oklahoma City Orthopedic surgeon says, “The incisions are smaller; therefore, helping the site be more difficult to become infected which could not only cause even more more drastic pain, but can also cause you to have to have another surgical procedure to drain the infection” (Uhland). The hamstring not having to be cut can help to prevent a dramatic loss of strength back there; therefore, allowing for less physical therapy time. Since the replacement ligament is not taken from you, you only have to focus on rehabilitating on the main muscles supporting the knee and making them strong again.
Cadaver ligaments or allografts are a better choice and have better advantages than autografts when repairing a torn ACL. Although they do have their disadvantages such as infections like any major surgery, it is very unlikely for that to happen these days when done properly. I personally experienced ACL reconstructions twice throughout my lifetime. I was tackled on the football field while I was cheering at a football game. His helmet hit my knee, and blew out my knee causing my ACL to tear. When I met with my doctor they gave me the option of which surgery I wanted to try. I got the privilege of trying out both methods; using my hamstring ligament the first time then a cadaver ligament the second. The hamstring option not only put me in the worst pain of my life, but also failed after three months of returning to cheerleading. The cadaver ligament was not only a lot less painful, but the healing process was dramatically faster and physical therapy wasn’t something I dreaded going to anymore.