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Transphyseal ACL Reconstruction in Skeletally Immature Patients: Does Independent Femoral Tunnel Drilling Place the Physis at Greater Risk Compared With Transtibial Drilling?

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Transphyseal ACL Reconstruction in Skeletally Immature Patients: Does Independent Femoral Tunnel Drilling Place the Physis at Greater Risk Compared With Transtibial Drilling?

Aristides I Cruz Jr et al. Orthop J Sports Med.

Abstract

Background: Most studies examining the safety and efficacy of transphyseal anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction for skeletally immature patients utilize transtibial drilling. Independent femoral tunnel drilling may impart a different pattern of distal femoral physeal involvement.

Purpose: To radiographically assess differences in distal femoral physeal disruption between transtibial and independent femoral tunnel drilling. We hypothesized that more oblique tunnels associated with independent drilling involve a significantly larger area of physeal disruption compared with vertically oriented tunnels.

Study design: Cross-sectional study; Level of evidence, 3.

Methods: We analyzed skeletally immature patients aged between 10 and 15 years who underwent transphyseal ACL reconstruction utilizing an independent femoral tunnel drilling technique between January 1, 2008, and March 31, 2011. These patients were matched with a transtibial technique cohort based on age and sex. Radiographic measurements were recorded from preoperative magnetic resonance imaging and postoperative radiographs.

Results: Ten patients in each group were analyzed. There were significant differences between independent drilling and transtibial drilling cohorts in the estimated area of physeal disruption (1.64 vs 0.74 cm(2); P < .001), femoral tunnel angles (32.1° vs 72.8°; P < .001), and medial/lateral location of the femoral tunnel (24.2 vs 36.1 mm from lateral cortex; P = .001), respectively. There was a significant inverse correlation between femoral tunnel angle and estimated area of distal femoral physeal disruption (r = -0.8255, P = .003).

Conclusion: Femoral tunnels created with an independent tunnel drilling technique disrupt a larger area of the distal femoral physis and create more eccentric tunnels compared with a transtibial technique.

Clinical relevance: As most studies noting the safety of transphyseal ACL reconstruction have utilized a central, vertical femoral tunnel, surgeons should be aware that if an independent femoral tunnel technique is utilized during transphyseal ACL reconstruction, more physeal tissue is at risk and tunnels are more eccentrically placed across the physis when drilling at more horizontal angles. Prior studies have shown that greater physeal involvement and eccentric tunnels may increase the risk of growth disturbance.

Keywords: anterior cruciate ligament; athlete; knee; pediatric sports medicine; physis.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors reported that they have no conflicts of interest in the authorship and publication of this contribution.

Figures

Figure 1.
Figure 1.
Anteroposterior knee radiographs depicting the angle of the femoral tunnel in relation to the femoral condyles, A, and the femoral tunnel width at the level of the physis, B.
Figure 2.
Figure 2.
Scatterplot depicting the relationship between the drill angle of the femoral tunnel (x-axis) and estimated percentage of physeal area that was removed (y-axis). There was a significant inverse correlation between femoral tunnel drill angle and estimated area of femoral physeal involvement (r = –0.8255, P = .003).

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