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Posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) injury

  • Alternative Names

    Cruciate ligament injury - posterior; PCL injury; Knee injury - posterior cruciate ligament (PCL); Hyperextended knee

    First Aid

    At first, a PCL injury is treated by:

    • Checking the pulse and circuation in the area
    • Splinting
    • Applying ice to the area
    • Elevating the joint (above the level of the heart)
    • Taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for pain

    Limit physical activity until the swelling is down, motion is normal, and the pain is gone. Physical therapy can help you regain joint and leg strength. If the injury happens suddenly (acute) or you have a high activity level, you may need surgery. This may be either knee arthroscopy or "open" surgical reconstruction.

    Age has an effect on treatment. Younger patients are more likely to have problems without surgery, because chronic instability may lead to arthritis symptoms many years later. Which patients need surgery is controversial, because many people seem to do well without surgery. Injuries in which the bone is pulled off with the ligament, or multiple ligaments are injured need to be repaired with surgery.

    PCL injuries are commonly associated with other ligament injuries or knee dislocation. It is important to have your knee examined for other injuries. Some of these injuries need to be treated urgently.

    Do Not

    Call immediately for emergency medical assistance if

    Call your health care provider if:

    • You have symptoms of PCL injury
    • You are being treated for PCL injury and you have greater instability in your knee
    • Pain or swelling return after they went away
    • Your injury does not appear to be getting better with time
    • You re-injure your knee
    • You have loss of sensation and decreased in circulation in your foot

    A lot of PCL injuries are associated with other ligament injuries or severe knee trauma. You should be checked early for these other conditions.