Background: Controversy remains over the most appropriate graft for anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction.
Hypothesis: There is no significant difference in outcomes after 4-strand hamstring and patellar tendon autograft anterior cruciate ligament reconstructions using similar fixation techniques.
Study design: Randomized controlled trial; Level of evidence, 1.
Methods: Between August 2000 and May 2003, 64 Keller Army Hospital patients with complete anterior cruciate ligament tears were randomized to hamstring (n = 32) or patellar tendon (n = 32) autograft anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction. Operative graft fixation and rehabilitative techniques were the same for both groups. Follow-up assessments included the Single Assessment Numeric Evaluation score, Lysholm score, International Knee Documentation Committee score, and Knee Injury and Osteoarthritis Outcome Score. Postoperative radiographs were analyzed for tunnel location and orientation.
Results: Eleven women and 53 men were randomized. Eighty-three percent of the patients (53 of 64) had follow-up of greater than 2 years, or to the point of graft rupture or removal (average follow-up, 36 months). Four hamstring grafts (12.5%) and three patellar tendon grafts (9.4%) (P = .71) ruptured. One deep infection in a hamstring graft patient necessitated graft removal. Forty-five of the 56 patients with intact grafts had greater than 2-year follow-up. Patients with patellar tendon grafts had greater Tegner activity scores (P = .04). Single Assessment Numeric Evaluation scores were 88.5 (95% confidence interval: 83.1, 93.8) and 90.1 (95% confidence interval: 85.2, 96.1) for the hamstring and patellar tendon groups, respectively (P = .53). Lysholm scores were 90.3 (95% confidence interval: 84.4, 96.1) and 90.4 (95% confidence interval: 84.5, 96.3) for the hamstring and patellar tendon groups, respectively (P = .97). There were no significant differences in knee laxity, kneeling pain, isokinetic peak torque, International Knee Documentation Committee score, or Knee Injury and Osteoarthritis Outcome Scores. Postoperative graft rupture correlated with more horizontal tibial tunnel orientation.
Conclusion: Hamstring and patellar tendon autografts provide similar objective, subjective, and functional outcomes when assessed at least 2 years after anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction.