The use of cold therapy after anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction. A prospective, randomized study and literature review

Am J Sports Med. 1996 Sep-Oct;24(5):629-33. doi: 10.1177/036354659602400511.


We performed a randomized, prospective study to assess the effectiveness of postoperative cold therapy in patients who had anterior cruciate ligament reconstructions. Drain output, length of hospital stay, range of motion, and use of pain medication were all assessed. Patients were randomized into one of four groups after surgery. Group 1 patients had a cooling pad applied to the knee postoperatively and set at a temperature of 40 degrees to 50 degrees F, Group 2 had the cooling pad set at 70 degrees to 80 degrees F, Group 3 received ice packs, and Group 4 received no cold therapy of any kind. The skin temperatures in Groups 1 and 3 were significantly lower than the skin temperatures in Groups 2 and 4 (P < 0.001). The length of hospital stay, range of motion at discharge, use of oral and intramuscular pain medicine, and drain output were not significantly different between groups. No complications related to the type of cold therapy were seen in any group. Thus, both ice packs and cooling pads significantly decreased knee temperature, but we found no objective benefits in the early postoperative course due to this decrease in temperature.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Adult
  • Analgesics / administration & dosage
  • Analgesics / therapeutic use
  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament / surgery*
  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries
  • Cryotherapy* / instrumentation
  • Drainage
  • Equipment Design
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Ice
  • Injections, Intramuscular
  • Knee Joint / physiopathology
  • Length of Stay
  • Male
  • Patellar Ligament / transplantation
  • Patient Discharge
  • Placebos
  • Postoperative Care
  • Prospective Studies
  • Range of Motion, Articular
  • Skin Temperature / physiology


  • Analgesics
  • Ice
  • Placebos