Remnant preserving ACL reconstruction with a functional remnant is related to improved laxity but not to improved clinical outcomes in comparison to a nonfunctional remnant

Knee Surg Sports Traumatol Arthrosc. 2022 May;30(5):1543-1551. doi: 10.1007/s00167-021-06572-1. Epub 2021 Apr 24.


Purpose: The Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) remnant has been pointed out as a ligamentization enhancer. Nonetheless, the remaining tissue can be functional if it still provides some stability or nonfunctional. This study intends to compare the clinical results and knee stability of functional vs. nonfunctional remnant preservation ACL reconstruction (ACLR).

Methods: One hundred and seventy-five patients with ACL injuries were included and underwent remnant preservation ACLR. They were divided into two groups accordingly to remnant tissue functionality: functional (Group F) and nonfunctional (Group NF). Primary outcome was defined as patient reported outcomes measured with Lysholm, IKDC and Tegner continuous scales and improvements. Secondary outcomes comprised of Lachman test, anterior drawer test, pivot shift test, extension and flexion deficit, graft coverage by remnant preserved tissue and failure rate (persistent instability or new ACL lesion). Menisci lesions, cartilage lesions and time to surgery were also recorded for each group.

Results: One hundred and forty-four patients were available at a mean of 30.2 ± 10.1 months: 69 Functional and 75 Nonfunctional. Lysholm, IKDC and Tegner functional outcomes demonstrated no difference between the groups, Functional compared to Nonfunctional: 88.4 ± 10.5 vs. 92.2 ± 4.9, n.s. and 83.2 ± 11.3 vs. 87 ± 5.3, n.s. and 6 (5-10) vs. 6 (5-9), n.s., respectively. Lysholm and IKDC functional outcomes improvements demonstrated differences between the groups: Functional compared to Nonfunctional (39.3 ± 9.4 vs. 42.3 ± 7.4, p = 0.014 and 37.7 ± 10 vs. 41.0 ± 6.6, p = 0.032); however, they were not clinically significant. Functional group showed more stability on physical examination pre- and post-operatively (p < 0.001, p < 0.001). There was no difference regarding extension deficit (n.s.); however, functional group had more flexion deficit (p = 0.02). Nonfunctional group had better graft coverage (p = 0.001). There was no difference regarding failure rate: 4% vs. 9%, (n.s.).

Conclusion: Both remnant preservation ACLR techniques were able to achieve satisfactory functional outcomes. A functional remnant was not related to improved functional outcomes in comparison to a nonfunctional remnant; however, it was related to less laxity pre and postoperatively and inferior graft coverage.

Level of evidence: II.

Keywords: ACL; ACL reconstruction; ACL remnant preservation; Anterior cruciate ligament; Anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction.

MeSH terms

  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament / surgery
  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries* / surgery
  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction* / methods
  • Humans
  • Knee Joint / surgery
  • Treatment Outcome