MCL Reconstruction Surgery is a surgical procedure performed to treat a tear in the MCL ligament in the elbow. The MCL (medial collateral ligament) is one part of a complex of ligaments and tendons that attaches the lower and upper arm bones to the elbow. MCL tears tend to worsen gradually over time, cause your arm to weaken and eventually prevent you from being able to use your arm to exert significant force.
Baseball pitchers are highly susceptible to an MCL tear in their pitching arm. The repetitive throwing motion combined with the amount of force behind it (pitching balls at 70 to 100 miles per hour) puts a high degree of strain on the elbow joint. Inflammation, cartilage injuries, bone spurs and eventually an MCL tear can result from this repetitive force on the elbow.
Prior to the development of MCL reconstruction surgery, a medial collateral ligament tear was a career-ending injury for athletes. Pitchers and other athletes who put tremendous strain on their elbows benefit the most from MCL reconstruction, because it allows them to return to their previous level of athletics.
Non-throwing athletes can acquire an MCL tear, too, but usually don't require surgery to treat the torn ligament.
What to Expect from MCL Reconstruction Surgery
Medial collateral ligament reconstruction is often referred to as the “Tommy John Surgery” in reference to the famous baseball player who received the surgery almost thirty years ago. The surgery involves taking a spare tendon from your forearm that doesn’t serve a real purpose and using it to recreate the medial collateral ligament in the elbow. The surgeon might instead opt to acquire the replacement tendon from a donor tendon.
Surgery begins with your orthopaedic surgeon making an incision over the elbow joint. The muscles are split, and the nerves are moved away from the area to avoid injury. The remaining portion of the MCL is reattached to the lower arm bone (ulna (lower arm bone). The tendon graft is threaded through holes created in the ulna and humerus bones, then sutured to stabilize the joint. Some surgeons will create three holes in the bones, while others prefer to drill one hole in the humerus bone.
Thanks to major advances in surgical techniques and tools, MCL reconstruction surgery can be performed in as little as 60 minutes, in contrast to the original four-hour procedure almost three decades ago. After surgery, you can expect recovery to take as long as a year. Once your doctor confirms that the medial collateral ligament has been properly reattached and is completely healed, you will be able to return to your normal level of athletic activity.
The multidisciplinary team of orthopaedic experts at North Shore-LIJ Orthopaedic Institute's Shoulder & Elbow Services in New York performs MCL (Medial Collateral Ligament) Reconstruction Surgery as well as a broad range of nonsurgical and surgical treatments for conditions that affect the shoulder and elbow.
The Rehabilitation Network of the North Shore-LIJ Health System is dedicated to providing you and your family with result-oriented, comprehensive rehabilitation services. Our goal is to help you and your loved ones find relief from pain and get moving again after an accident, illness, injury or surgery. We’re your partner in a safe, healthy, more rapid recovery.