The Current Evidence for Treatment of ACL Injuries in Children Is Low: A Systematic Review

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Background:There is no consensus on the management of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries in skeletally immature children, and the methodological quality of published studies is questionable. The transphyseal reconstructions, physeal-sparing reconstructions, and nonoperative treatment algorithms that are advocated have little support in the literature. The purpose of this study was to systematically review the methodological quality of the literature on the management of ACL injuries in skeletally immature children.Methods:We performed a literature search with use of PubMed to identify prospective or retrospective studies whose primary aim was to assess the outcome after operative or nonoperative treatment of ACL injuries in skeletally immature children. To be included in the analysis, a study had to have a mean duration of follow-up of at least two years and a minimum of ten children in the study had to be verified to be skeletally immature. The methodological quality of the included studies was evaluated with use of the Coleman Methodology Score.Results:No randomized controlled trials, two prospective cohort studies, and twenty-nine retrospective studies met the inclusion criteria. The Coleman Methodology Score averaged 44.7 ± 9.2 out of 100 (range, 28 to 62). The methodological deficiencies were most evident with regard to the number of included children, the study design, and the description of rehabilitation protocols, outcome criteria, and outcome assessments.Conclusions:Caution is necessary when interpreting the results of studies on the treatment of ACL injuries in skeletally immature children because of widespread methodological deficiencies. There is a need for appropriately sized prospective studies and detailed descriptions of rehabilitation programs.Level of Evidence:Therapeutic Level III. See Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.

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