Long-term results of anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction: a comparison with non-operative treatment with a follow-up of 17-20 years

Int Orthop. 2011 Jul;35(7):1093-7. doi: 10.1007/s00264-011-1206-x. Epub 2011 Feb 2.


Purpose: The aim of our study was to review the clinical and radiological outcome of patients who had undergone anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction in comparison to a group of non-operatively treated patients.

Methods: In a retrospective study we compared ACL reconstruction using a bone-patellar tendon-bone graft with a non-operatively treated group of patients 17-20 years later. Fifty-four patients that met the inclusion criteria, with arthroscopically proven ACL rupture, were treated between 1989 and 1991. Thirty-three patients underwent ACL reconstruction, forming group one. Eighteen non-reconstructed patients continued with rehabilitation and modification of activities (group two). The International Knee Documentation Committee (IKDC) subjective and objective evaluation forms and the Lysholm and Tegner scale were used to assess the knees at follow-up. Radiographic assessment was performed using the IKDC grading scale.

Results: Follow-up results showed that 83% of reconstructed patients had stable knees and normal or nearly normal IKDC grade. Patients in the non-reconstructed group had unstable knees with 84% having abnormal or severe laxity. The subjective IKDC score was significantly in favour of group one: 83.15 compared to 64.6 in group two. The Lysholm and Tegner score was also significantly better in group one. Conservatively treated patients all had unstable knees and worse scores. The rate of osteoarthritis showed more severe changes in non-reconstructed patients with additional meniscus injury.

Conclusions: We can conclude that 94% of patients who underwent ACL reconstruction had stable knees after 15-20 years and there was a significantly lower percentage of osteoarthritis in comparison to conservatively treated patients.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament / surgery*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Joint Instability / etiology
  • Knee Injuries / surgery*
  • Knee Joint / physiopathology
  • Knee Joint / surgery*
  • Male
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee / etiology
  • Plastic Surgery Procedures / methods*
  • Postoperative Complications
  • Range of Motion, Articular
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome