Diagnosis Orthopedics

PCL Tear

Because the PCL is located inside the knee joint, which may be very swollen and painful, it can be difficult to diagnose a PCL tear solely by physical examination. That said, your doctor will do a posterior drawer test, where he or she pushes the shinbone or tibia back while the knee is bent 90 degrees. If the tibia moves more than five millimeters backward, it is likely that the PCL has been torn. Your doctor may perform other maneuvers to test for PCL insufficiency as well.

In addition, there are a number of tests your doctor may use to more closely examine your injury, including:

  • X-ray These may be taken of your knee to rule out any fractures.
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) This is an effective tool (with an accuracy rate of nearly 90 percent) for determining whether a PCL has been torn and to assess the extent of the damage.
  • Arthroscopy During this test, the doctor inserts a tiny camera into your knee. This is the best way to examine a partial tear for it allows your doctor to gently pull at the PCL and determine the extent of the damage. This procedure is done on an outpatient basis and is relatively pain-free.

UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.