Reconstruction of the anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, is performed by orthopedic surgeons to prevent recurrent knee instability during cutting, pivoting, and jumping activities. Orthopedists have long speculated that ACL reconstruction also has the added long-term effect of preventing further damage to the knee, including arthritis and meniscus tears, but data to support this hypothesis has been limited. New research out of the Mayo Clinic now demonstrates that ACL surgery plays a role in reducing the risk of knee arthritis and meniscus tears after ACL injury.
In the study, published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine, Drs Thomas Sanders, Aaron Krych and their team of researchers reviewed nearly 1,000 patients with ACL tears. Some were treated with early surgery (<1 year after injury); some were treated with delayed surgery (>1 year after injury); and some were treated without surgery. They found that patients who did not have surgery were 6 times more likely to develop knee arthritis, 5 times more likely to suffer a meniscus tear, and nearly 17 times more likely to undergo knee replacement surgery in the future. Patients who had early ACL surgery had decreased risk of developing arthritis and meniscus tears compared to those who had delayed surgery.
These findings may help some patients decide whether ACL reconstruction surgery is right for them. Your surgeon will help counsel you through this decision-making process, but ACL reconstruction does appear to have both short-term (improved knee stability) and long-term (decreased risk of arthritis, meniscus tear, and knee replacement) benefits.