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Torn ACL (cont.)

Torn ACL Diagnosis

The diagnosis of a knee injury begins with the history of how the injury occurred. Initially, the knee can be painful, swollen, and difficult to examine. Plain X-rays can detect associated broken bones.

If the patient presents after the swelling has decreased, the stability of the knee can be assessed. There may be tenderness along the knee joint and weakness noted of the quadriceps muscle. The physical exam also may be helpful in looking for other structures within the knee that may also be damaged. These include stressing the collateral ligaments and assessing the menisci or cartilage.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is often done to evaluate the anatomy of the knee, and it can detect injuries to the ligaments, meniscus, and bone. While it is used to visualize the anatomy, it is not a replacement for the history and physical exam. Not all patients with knee injuries require an MRI.

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