• Team Joseph

ACL Reconstruction: Allograft vs. Autograft


A tear to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is a debilitating injury. ACL tears can cause pain, knee instability, swelling, and impacted range of motion, and, unlike the meniscus, the ACL is unable to heal without surgery.


The good news is that ACL surgery is a predictable procedure, with a success rate of 80-90 percent, and has several different graft options for your lifestyle and demographics. Here’s how to know which ACL graft is right for you.


What is an ACL Allograft?

An ACL allograft is when your orthopaedic physician uses tissue from a donor (usually a cadaver) to replace the torn ligament. These donated ligaments can be grafted from different tissues, including:

  • Achilles Tendon

  • Patellar

  • Quadriceps

  • Hamstring

  • Tibialis Anterior

Dr. Joseph and his team at Vail-Summit Orthopaedics & Neurosurgery will typically recommend specific grafts for different patient populations, such as:

  • Patellar Tendon Graft: This graft has the lowest re-rupture rate, making it a great option for younger athletes.

  • Quad Graft: This is an excellent graft for people with pre-existing patellar tendon issues and loose-jointed athletes.

Recovery and rehabilitation for an ACL allograft are usually less painful. However, it is known to have higher re-rupture rates in patients under the age of 35.


How is an ACL Autograft Different From an Allograft?

During an autograft, the tissue to replace the torn ACL is taken from the patient’s own body. This has some definite advantages over tissue harvested from a donor such as:

  • The graft is genetically compatible, ensuring the tissue will not be rejected by the body’s immune system

  • Lower chances of a re-rupture in young, active patients

  • Faster return to high-level activities

However, autografts are known to be more painful with a greater potential of future weakness in the harvest sight (especially in patellar autographs).


In order to determine the right graft and harvest sight for you, Dr. Joseph will factor in the following:

  • Age

  • Activity level

  • Lifestyle

  • Anatomy (sometimes the thickness of your tissue can exclude you from an autograft)

If you are a candidate for an ACL autograft, Dr. Joseph and his team will review all your options, empowering you to make a well-informed decision about your health.


Contact Dr. Joseph, Vail Valley’s Best ACL Surgeon


If you are exploring options for ACL reconstruction surgery, contact Team Joseph today. With three convenient locations in Eagle and Summit County, Dr. Joseph is the go-to knee expert of the High Rockies. Known for his skill and compassion, Dr. Joseph will ensure that your graft is right for you, allowing you to get back to doing the activities you love.


Schedule your appointment with Dr. Joseph today by calling (970) 476-7220 or by submitting our online appointment request form. Same day and urgent care appointments are always available!


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