The intraoperative evaluation of the neurosensory function of the anterior cruciate ligament in humans using somatosensory evoked potentials

Arthroscopy. 1992;8(4):442-7. doi: 10.1016/0749-8063(92)90005-v.


Most of the investigation of the properties of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) has focused on its biomechanical functions. There has been increasing interest in the study of the possible neuroreceptor function of the ACL and its role in providing important proprioceptive feedback. Anatomic and histologic studies in humans have shown the presence of neuroreceptors within the anterior cruciate ligament. Indirect evidence exists that proprioception is diminished in the ACL-deficient knee. However, direct evidence in humans of the actual origin of the afferent impulses from within the ACL itself is lacking. Measurement of direct electrical afferent activity, occurring on stimulation of the ACL, should provide this evidence. Somatosensory evoked potentials (SEP) measure the electric potentials evoked in the cerebral cortex upon stimulation of a peripheral neuroreceptor. Carried by the posterior columns of the spinal cord, they reflect activity of the proprioceptive fibers. During arthroscopic procedures performed on nine patients, the normal ACL was stimulated by the use of electrodes applied to the femoral end, midsubstance, and tibial end, and cortical potentials thus evoked were recorded. In all cases, SEPs were recorded at the cerebral cortex upon stimulation of the ACL. The greatest potentials were reported upon stimulation of the midsubstance of the ligament. These findings provide direct evidence for, and strongly support the presence of, active proprioceptive receptors within the intact anterior cruciate ligament of the human knee.

MeSH terms

  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament / innervation*
  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament / surgery
  • Arthroscopy
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Evoked Potentials, Somatosensory*
  • Humans
  • Intraoperative Period
  • Proprioception
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / physiology*