Anterior cruciate ligament tears: MR imaging-based diagnosis in a pediatric population

Radiology. 1999 Dec;213(3):697-704. doi: 10.1148/radiology.213.3.r99dc26697.


Purpose: To evaluate the diagnostic accuracy of primary and secondary magnetic resonance (MR) imaging findings of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears in young patients with immature skeletal systems.

Materials and methods: MR images obtained in 43 patients aged 5-16 years who underwent arthroscopy were retrospectively reviewed. Two reviewers evaluated primary findings (abnormal signal intensity, abnormal course as defined by Blumensaat angle, and discontinuity), secondary findings (bone bruise in lateral compartment, anterior tibial displacement, uncovering of posterior horn of lateral meniscus, posterior cruciate ligament line, and posterior cruciate angle), and meniscal and other ligamentous injuries.

Results: There were 19 ACL tears and 24 intact ACLs. Overall sensitivity and specificity of MR imaging in detecting ACL tears were 95% and 88%, respectively. Sensitivities of the primary findings were 94% for abnormal Blumensaat angle; 79%, abnormal signal intensity; and 21% discontinuity. The specificity of all primary findings was 88% or greater. The sensitivity and specificity of the secondary findings, respectively, were 68% and 88% for bone bruise; 63% and 92%, anterior tibial displacement; 42% and 96%, uncovered posterior horn of lateral meniscus; 68% and 92%, positive posterior cruciate line; and 74% and 71%, abnormal posterior cruciate angle. Fifteen (79%) patients had meniscal tears, and five (26%) had collateral ligament injuries.

Conclusion: Primary and secondary findings of ACL tears in young patients have high specificity and are useful for diagnosis.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament / pathology
  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Knee Injuries / diagnosis*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Sensitivity and Specificity