Repair of a complete anterior cruciate tear using prolotherapy: a case report

Int Musculoskelet Med. 2009 Dec 1;31(4):159-165. doi: 10.1179/175361409X12472218840924.


OBJECTIVE AND IMPORTANCE: Surgical reconstruction is considered definitive treatment for anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears but precise surgical indications are debated. Some patients are reluctant or inappropriate surgical candidates. Prolotherapy is a non-surgical injection therapy for chronic musculoskeletal pain and instability. This case report documents the non-surgical repair of a torn ACL using prolotherapy and at-home exercise. CLINICAL PRESENTATION AND INTERVENTION: The 18 year old female patient sustained a right knee injury during a downhill skiing accident. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) revealed a high-grade partial versus complete rupture; Lachman exam findings suggested a complete rupture. She deferred surgical treatment. At 21 weeks post-injury, with unstable gait, inability to climb stairs and more than 1 cm anterior drawer test, she consented to undergo prolotherapy injections. She received 7 prolotherapy sessions over a 15 week period. At-home exercises were initiated at the 3(rd) prolotherapy session. RESULTS: The patient improved. Walking on flat ground improved 4 weeks after initiation of prolotherapy; she could ride a stationary bicycle for 30 minutes by 12 weeks. By 15 weeks, the patient had no instability climbing and descending stairs, the anterior drawer test was negative and MRI showed an intact ACL with fibrosis. Subsequently, she returned to full sport activity. CONCLUSIONS: We document the non-surgical repair of a high-grade partial or complete ACL tear using prolotherapy and at-home exercise. Prolotherapy may be an alternative to surgery in carefully selected patients. This report is consistent with findings of recent pilot-level studies and suggests the need for rigorous clinical trials assessing prolotherapy as treatment for ligament and tendon injury in selected patients.