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. 2013 Dec;44(12):1862-5.
doi: 10.1016/j.injury.2013.07.024. Epub 2013 Aug 7.

Anterior Cruciate Ligament Rupture: Delay to Diagnosis


Anterior Cruciate Ligament Rupture: Delay to Diagnosis

N S Perera et al. Injury. .


Introduction and aim: Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears are common injuries. Despite the diagnosis being in essence a clinical one, this has often proved unreliable. The objective of this study was to ascertain the delay to diagnosis of ACL injury from initial presentation and subsequent delay to review by a knee specialist.

Methods: The study involved a retrospective review of 130 patient case notes in a consecutive series of patients undergoing primary ACL reconstruction. Details regarding mechanism of injury, dates of initial and subsequent clinic attendances and the treating health-care professional were recorded. Other information included dates of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans and when a patient first saw a knee specialist. From this, delays to clinical or radiological diagnosis were calculated.

Results: There were 82 acute and 48 chronic ACL injuries. Overall, the initial treating practitioner made the diagnosis in only 25 patients, yielding a diagnostic rate of 19.2%. Diagnoses made on MRI scan accounted for 38.5% of cases, the remainder being diagnosed clinically. The mean delay to diagnosis of ACL rupture was 65 days, and only 53 patients were diagnosed within 30 days of initial presentation. A total of 15 patients had undergone arthroscopy, eight of which were diagnostic. The mean delay to consulting a soft-tissue knee surgeon was 165 days. In the acute group, the initial diagnostic rate was only 7.3% and the mean delay to diagnosis was 82 days, with 29 patients diagnosed within 30 days.

Conclusions: Despite 78% of the patients having a typical mechanism of ACL injury, and most attending acutely via the Emergency Department (ED), diagnosis of this common injury remains tardy. There has been at best only minor improvement in the diagnostic rate and delays, certainly of acute ACL injury, since a study in 1996. The overall clinical diagnostic rate remains disconcertingly low as does the delay to consulting a soft-tissue knee specialist.

Keywords: Anterior cruciate ligament; Delays; Diagnosis; Knee surgeon; Ligament injury.

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