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Symptoms. Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL) Injury

By Editorial Team (A)
November 26, 2021
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Posterior cruciate ligament injury symptoms

When acute or sudden posterior cruciate ligament injuries occur, the symptoms are often mild. They may be vague and difficult to describe. There may be no pain or only minimal discomfort, and movement of the knee is usually not affected. However, there may be bruising or swelling over the shinbone.

Chronic posterior cruciate ligament injuries or tears usually cause more symptoms. Aching pain or discomfort may occur with the following activities or positions:

  • When the knee is partially flexed (for example, when walking up or down a flight of stairs or on an incline)
  • When lifting an object or a load
  • When beginning a run
  • When walking long distances

Other symptoms of chronic posterior cruciate injury may include:

  • Pain behind the knee
  • Stiffness of the knee
  • A sensation of the knee being unstable or loose when walking on uneven surfaces
  • Knee swelling

Diagnosis of posterior cruciate ligament injury

The doctor will review your medical history and examine your knee if you experience pain behind your knee, pain when climbing stairs, or other symptoms of a posterior cruciate ligament injury. The physician will feel your knee, move your leg into various positions, and watch you stand and walk. Comparing your knees and legs can help determine if there is abnormal movement or sagging below the knee.

Imaging studies may also be recommended to help diagnose a posterior cruciate ligament injury or rule out other possible causes of your symptoms. These tests may include:

  • X-rays. Ligaments do not appear on X-rays, but a fracture of a bone that may be present can show up on X-rays. People suffering from posterior cruciate ligament injuries may have a type of fracture known as an avulsion fracture. In these fractures, a small piece of bone attached to a ligament pulls away from another bone.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging. It is also called an MRI. It may reveal a tear in the PCL. In addition, it can also detect injuries in other structures of the knee, such as other ligaments or cartilage.
  • Arthroscopy. It is a surgical procedure that allows the physician to look directly at the posterior cruciate ligament and assess the injury. Tiny puncture incisions are made through the skin. A video camera is inserted through one of these incisions and displays images on a computer screen. The doctor can pass surgical instruments through other incisions to repair the ligament in some cases.

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