Purpose: The purpose of this study was to verify and characterize the anatomical properties of the anterolateral capsule, with the aim of establishing a more accurate anatomical description of the anterolateral ligament (ALL). Furthermore, microscopic analysis of the tissue was performed to determine whether the ALL can morphologically be classified as ligamentous tissue, as well as reveal any potential functional characteristics.
Methods: Three different modalities were used to validate the existence of the ALL: magnetic resonance imagining (MRI), anatomical dissection, and histological analysis. Ten fresh-frozen cadaveric knee specimens underwent MRI, followed by anatomical dissection which allowed comparison of MRI to gross anatomy. Nine additional fresh-frozen cadaveric knees (19 total) were dissected for a further anatomical description. Four specimens underwent H&E staining to look at morphological characteristics, and one specimen was analysed using immunohistochemistry to locate peripheral nervous innervation.
Results: The ALL was found in all ten knees undergoing MRI and all nineteen knees undergoing anatomical dissection, with MRI being able to predict its corresponding anatomical dissection. The ALL was found to have bone-to-bone attachment points from the lateral femoral epicondyle to the lateral tibia, in addition to a prominent meniscal attachment. Histological sectioning showed ALL morphology to be characteristic of ligamentous tissue, having dense, regularly organized collagenous bundles. Immunohistochemistry revealed a large network of peripheral nervous innervation, indicating a potential proprioceptive role.
Conclusion: From this study, the ALL is an independent structure in the anterolateral compartment of the knee and may serve a proprioceptive role in knee mechanics.
Keywords: ACL; Anterolateral ligament (ALL); Histology; Immunohistochemistry; Lateral capsular ligament; MRI.