Complications After Pediatric ACL Reconstruction: A Meta-Analysis

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The purpose of this meta-analysis is to review clinical outcomes and complications following pediatric anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction.


The PubMed and EMBASE databases were searched for studies on ACL ruptures in the skeletally immature from 1985 to 2016. Full-text studies in English and performed on humans were included (n=5718). Titles included discussed operative intervention on skeletally immature patients with ACL tears (n=160). Studies that reported rerupture and/or complications with ACL reconstruction specific to the pediatric population, specifically growth disturbance, were then included in a secondary analysis (n=45). Complications not specific to the pediatric population were excluded. Demographics, graft type, surgical technique, follow-up, growth disturbance, rerupture, and patient-reported outcome scores were collected. Data were analyzed in aggregate.


In total, 45 studies were included with 1321 patients and 1392 knees. The average age was 13.0 years, 67% were male, and mean follow-up was 49.6 months. There were 115 (8.7%) reruptures in the initial 160 studies reviewed. In total, 94.6% of patients with rerupture required revision ACL surgery. There were 58 total growth disturbances (16 required corrective surgery, or 27.6%). Eighteen knees (3.7%) developed angular deformity, most commonly valgus. There were 37 patients (7.5%) had at least a 1 cm limb-length discrepancy. A total of 23 studies reported International Knee Documentation Committee scores (range, 81 to 100, 88% grade A or B). In total, 20 studies reported excellent Lysholm scores with mean scores of 94.6.


Growth disturbance can occur with any of the reconstruction techniques. Proper surgical technique is likely more important than the specific reconstruction technique utilized. Patients with rerupture require surgery at much higher rates than those with growth disturbance. Although much attention has been focused on growth disturbance, we suggest that equal attention be given to the prevention of rerupture in this age group.

Level of Evidence:

Level III.

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