Long-term Outcomes of Autologous Chondrocyte Implantation in Adolescent Patients

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Abstract

Background:

Treating symptomatic articular cartilage lesions is challenging, especially in adolescent patients, because of longer life expectancies and higher levels of functional activity. For this population, long-term outcomes after autologous chondrocyte implantation (ACI) remain to be determined.

Purpose:

To evaluate long-term outcomes in adolescents after ACI using survival analyses, validated outcome questionnaires, and standard radiographs.

Study Design:

Case series; Level of evidence, 4.

Methods:

We performed a review of prospectively collected data from patients who underwent ACI between 1996 and 2013. We evaluated 27 patients aged <18 years old (29 knees; mean age, 15.9 years) who were treated by a single surgeon for symptomatic, full-thickness articular cartilage lesions over a mean 9.6-year follow-up (median, 13 years; range, 2-19 years). A mean of 1.5 lesions per knee were treated over a mean total surface area of 6.2 cm2 (range, 2.0-23.4 cm2) per knee. Survival analysis was performed using the Kaplan-Meier method, with graft failure as the end point. The modified Cincinnati Knee Rating Scale, Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index, visual analog scale, and Short Form 36 scores were used to evaluate clinical outcomes. Patients also self-reported knee function and satisfaction. Standard radiographs were evaluated using Kellgren-Lawrence grades.

Results:

Both 5- and 10-year survival rates were 89%. All clinical scores improved significantly postoperatively. A total of 96% of patients rated knee function as better after surgery, and all patients indicated that they would undergo the same surgery again. Approximately 90% rated knee-specific outcomes as good or excellent and were satisfied with the procedure. At last follow-up, 12 of 26 successful knees were radiographically assessed (mean, 5.6 years postoperatively), with no significant osteoarthritis progression. Three knees were considered failures, which were managed by autologous bone grafting or osteochondral autologous transplantation. Twenty knees required subsequent surgical procedures. These were primarily associated with periosteum and were arthroscopically performed.

Conclusion:

ACI resulted in satisfactory survival rates and significant improvements in function, pain, and mental health for adolescent patients over a long-term follow-up. ACI was associated with very high satisfaction postoperatively, despite the subsequent procedure rate being relatively high primarily because of the use of periosteum. If periosteum is used, this rate should be a consideration when discussing ACI with patients and their parents.

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