Background: The choice of graft for anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction is a matter of debate, with patellar and hamstring tendons being the two most popular autologous graft options. The objective of this study was to determine in a prospective, randomized clinical trial whether two grafts (bone-patellar tendon-bone or doubled hamstring tendons) fixed with modern devices affect the two-year minimum clinical and radiographic outcomes of anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction.
Methods: One hundred and twenty patients with a chronic unilateral rupture of the anterior cruciate ligament underwent arthroscopically assisted reconstruction with use of either autologous bone-patellar tendon-bone or doubled hamstring tendon grafts, in a strictly alternating manner. Both groups were comparable with regard to demographic data, preoperative activity level, mechanism of injury, interval between the injury and the operation, and the amount of knee laxity present preoperatively. The same well-proven surgical technique and aggressive controlled rehabilitation was used. An independent observer, who was blinded with regard to the involved leg and the type of graft, performed the outcome assessment with use of a visual analog scale, the new International Knee Documentation Committee form, the Knee Injury and Osteoarthritis Outcome Score, the Functional Knee Score for Anterior Knee Pain, and an arthrometric and an isokinetic dynamometric evaluation. Radiographs were also made.
Results: At the two-year follow-up evaluation, no differences were found in terms of the visual analog score, the Knee Injury and Osteoarthritis Outcome Score, the new International Knee Documentation Committee subjective and objective evaluation scores, the KT-1000 side-to-side laxity measurements, the Functional Knee Score for Anterior Knee Pain, muscle strength recovery, or return to sports activities. In the bone-patellar tendon-bone group, we found a higher prevalence of postoperative kneeling discomfort (p < 0.01) and an increased area of decreased skin sensitivity (p < 0.001). In the hamstring tendon group, we recorded a higher prevalence of femoral tunnel widening (p < 0.01). In this group, a correlation was also found between medial meniscectomy and an increased prevalence of pivot-shift glide (p = 0.035).
Conclusions: We believe that, with use of accurate and proven surgical and rehabilitation techniques, both grafts are an equivalent option for anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction.