Quadriceps Recovery After Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction With Quadriceps Tendon Versus Patellar Tendon Autografts

Orthop J Sports Med. 2019 Apr 24;7(4):2325967119839786. doi: 10.1177/2325967119839786. eCollection 2019 Apr.


Background: Quadriceps tendon (QT) autografts are being increasingly used for anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction (ACLR). A paucity of studies exist that compare QT autografts with alternative graft options. Additionally, concerns exist regarding quadriceps recovery after graft harvest insult to the quadriceps muscle-tendon unit.

Purpose/hypothesis: The purpose of this study was to compare quadriceps recovery and functional outcomes in patients with QT versus bone-patellar tendon-bone (BPTB) autografts. The hypothesis was that those with QT autografts would demonstrate superior outcomes.

Study design: Cohort study; Level of evidence, 3.

Methods: Active patients with a history of primary, unilateral ACLR with soft tissue QT or BPTB autografts participated. Quadriceps recovery was quantified using variables of strength, muscle size, and activation. Knee extensor isometric and isokinetic strength was measured bilaterally with an isokinetic dynamometer and normalized to body weight. Quadriceps activation was measured with the superimposed burst technique. The maximal cross-sectional area of each quadriceps muscle was measured bilaterally using magnetic resonance imaging. Assessors of muscle size were blinded to the graft type and side of ACLR. Functional tests included hop tests and step length symmetry during walking, measured via spatiotemporal gait analysis. Self-reported function was determined with the International Knee Documentation Committee (IKDC) questionnaire. Neuromuscular and functional outcomes were expressed as limb symmetry indices (LSIs: [surgical limb/nonsurgical limb]*100%). Wilcoxon rank-sum tests were used to compare the LSIs and IKDC scores between groups.

Results: There were 30 study participants (19 male, 11 female; median age, 22 years [range, 14-41 years]; median time since surgery, 8 months [range, 6-23 months]), with 15 patients in each group. There were no significant between-group differences in demographic variables or outcomes. LSIs were not significantly different between the QT versus BPTB group, respectively: knee extensor isokinetic strength at 60 deg/s (median, 70 [range, 41-120] vs 68 [range, 37-83]; P = .285), activation (median, 95 [range, 85-111] vs 92 [range, 82-105]; P = .148), cross-sectional area of the vastus medialis (median, 79 [range, 62-104] vs 77 [range, 62-95]; P = .425), single-leg hop test (median, 88 [range, 35-114] vs 77 [range, 49-100]; P = .156), and step length symmetry (median, 99 [range, 93-104] vs 98 [range, 92-103]; P = .653). The median IKDC scores between the QT and BPTB groups were also not significantly different: 82 (range, 67-94) versus 83 (range, 54-94); respectively (P = .683).

Conclusion: Patients with QT autografts demonstrated similar short-term quadriceps recovery and postsurgical outcomes compared with patients with BPTB autografts.

Keywords: ACL reconstruction; anterior cruciate ligament; quadriceps tendon; rehabilitation.