Background: Although anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction is the treatment gold standard for ACL injury, it does not reduce the risk of posttraumatic osteoarthritis. Therefore, new treatments that minimize this postoperative complication are of interest. Bioenhanced ACL repair, in which a bioactive scaffold is used to stimulate healing of an ACL transection, has shown considerable promise in short-term studies. The long-term results of this technique and the effects of the bioenhancement on the articular cartilage have not been previously evaluated in a large animal model.
Hypotheses: (1) The structural (tensile) properties of the porcine ACL at 6 and 12 months after injury are similar when treated with bioenhanced ACL repair, bioenhanced ACL reconstruction, or conventional ACL reconstruction, and all treatments yield results superior to untreated ACL transection. (2) After 1 year, macroscopic cartilage damage following bioenhanced ACL repair is similar to that in bioenhanced ACL reconstruction and less than in conventional ACL reconstruction and untreated ACL transection.
Study design: Controlled laboratory study.
Methods: A total of 64 Yucatan mini-pigs underwent ACL transection and randomization to 4 experimental groups: no treatment, conventional ACL reconstruction, bioenhanced ACL reconstruction using a bioactive scaffold, and bioenhanced ACL repair using a bioactive scaffold. The biomechanical properties of the ligament or graft were examined and macroscopic assessments of the cartilage surfaces were performed after 6 and 12 months of healing.
Results: The structural properties (ie, linear stiffness, yield, and maximum loads) of the ligament after bioenhanced ACL repair were not significantly different from those in bioenhanced ACL reconstruction or conventional ACL reconstruction but were significantly greater than those in untreated ACL transection after 12 months of healing. Macroscopic cartilage damage after bioenhanced ACL repair was significantly less than that in untreated ACL transection and bioenhanced ACL reconstruction, and there was a strong trend (P = .068) for less macroscopic cartilage damage than in conventional ACL reconstruction in the porcine model at 12 months.
Conclusion: Bioenhanced ACL repair produces a ligament that is biomechanically similar to an ACL graft and provides chondroprotection to the joint after ACL surgery.
Clinical relevance: Bioenhanced ACL repair may provide a new, less invasive treatment option that reduces cartilage damage following joint injury.
Keywords: anterior cruciate ligament; collagen; osteoarthritis; platelet; reconstruction.