Isolated Tears of the Anterior Cruciate Ligament: Over 30-Year Follow-up of Patients Treated With Arthrotomy and Primary Repair

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Abstract

Background:

Over 30 years ago, Feagin and Curl reported on the diagnosis and treatment of “isolated” injuries of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). The purpose of this study was to evaluate the long-term results of the patients initially diagnosed with tears of the ACL, with special emphasis on those treated with primary repair.

Hypothesis:

Long-term results are unsatisfactory for open evaluation and treatment of ACL injuries with or without primary repair.

Study Design:

Case series; Level of evidence, 4.

Methods:

Follow-up was available on 34 of the original 57 patients (60%) who had ACL tears on evaluation by arthrotomy. The average age at the index procedure was 20 years, and average follow-up was 32 (range, 29-36) years. Twenty-five of the 26 complete ACL tears were treated with primary repair. None of the 8 partial tears was repaired. Evaluations included the subjective and symptom ratings of the International Knee Documentation Committee (IKDC) evaluation form, Lysholm score, Knee Injury and Osteoarthritis Outcome Score (KOOS), Tegner activity scale, and SANE rating.

Results:

For the IKDC subjective score, 18 of 34 patients rated their knees as normal or nearly normal. The Lysholm scores averaged 70.1 (range, 20-100). The average SANE rating at 5 years was 74.8 (range, 49-110), and the current SANE rating averaged 68.9 (range, 10-100). The overall KOOS rating averaged 68.6 (range, 26.4-100). The Tegner activity score was 3.7. There was little difference between patients with unrepaired partial tears and those who had primary repairs.

Conclusion:

At more than 30-year follow-up, patients have decreased activity levels and an equal mix of acceptable and unacceptable outcomes. We were unable to identify any predictive factors that correlated with the results; however, subsequent meniscal surgery did correlate with poor results. The results at greater than 30 years reinforce the 5-year results that showed unsatisfactory results after the open evaluation and treatment of ACL injuries with or without repair.

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