Incidence of and Factors Associated With the Decision to Undergo Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction 1 to 10 Years After Injury

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Among patients treated nonoperatively for 1 year after anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) disruption, little is known about the frequency of ACL reconstruction within the first year of injury and the effect of age range, sex, and meniscal tears on the incidence of ACL reconstruction between 1 and 10 years after injury.


To (1) define the rate of delayed ACL reconstruction (between 1 and 10 years after injury) in a population-based cohort of isolated ACL tears and (2) evaluate predictive factors associated with delayed reconstruction.

Study Design:

Case-control study; Level of evidence, 3.


The study included a population-based cohort of 1841 patients with new-onset, isolated ACL tears that occurred between January 1, 1990, and December 31, 2010. The complete medical records were reviewed to confirm diagnosis and collect data on clinical characteristics and details of subsequent ACL surgery. To evaluate the incidence of ACL reconstruction between 1 and 10 years after injury, landmark survival analysis was performed with a landmark set at 1 year after injury. Early and late predictors of ACL reconstruction were analyzed using Cox proportional hazards regression.


A total of 661 patients were treated nonoperatively for the first year after ACL tears. Over a mean 10 years of follow-up, 213 patients (32%) underwent ACL reconstruction between 1 and 10 years after injury. Young age (hazard ratio [HR], 0.55 per decade increase in age; 95% CI, 0.48-0.62) and meniscal tear at injury (HR, 1.48; 95% CI, 1.12-1.95) were significant predictors of undergoing delayed reconstruction. The rate of delayed ACL reconstruction decreased significantly over the study period (P < .03). There was no association between sex (HR, 0.89; 95% CI, 0.67-1.16) and delayed ACL reconstruction. Among patients who had delayed ACL reconstruction, 40% experienced a secondary meniscal tear before surgery.


In this study population of 1841 patients, 62% of patients received ACL reconstruction within 1 year of injury. Of patients treated nonoperatively for 1 year after ACL tears, 32% underwent delayed ACL reconstruction. Predictors of reconstruction beyond 1 year were young age (50% reduction in reconstruction per decade increased age) and baseline meniscal tear. Sex was not predictive for reconstruction beyond 1 year from injury.

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