Background: Patients and clinicians often struggle to choose the optimal management strategy for posttraumatic knee osteoarthritis (OA) after an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury. An evaluation of radiographic outcomes after a decision-making and treatment algorithm applicable in clinical practice can help to inform future recommendations and treatment choices.
Purpose: To describe and compare 5-year radiographic outcomes and knee pain in individuals who had gone through our decision-making and treatment algorithm and chosen (1) early (<6 months) ACL reconstruction (ACLR) with pre- and postoperative rehabilitation, (2) delayed (>6 months) ACLR with pre- and postoperative rehabilitation, or (3) progressive rehabilitation alone.
Study design: Cohort study; Level of evidence, 2.
Methods: We included 276 patients with unilateral ACL injury from a prospective cohort study. Patients chose management using a shared decision-making process and treatment algorithm, and 5-year postoperative radiographs of the index and contralateral knees were assessed using the Kellgren and Lawrence (K&L) classification and minimum joint space width measurements. We defined radiographic tibiofemoral OA as K&L grade ≥2 and knee pain as a Knee injury and Osteoarthritis Outcome Score for Pain ≤72. To further explore early radiographic changes, we included alternative cutoffs for radiographic knee OA using K&L grade ≥2/osteophyte (definite osteophyte without joint space narrowing) and K&L grade ≥1.
Results: At 5 years, 64% had undergone early ACLR; 11%, delayed ACLR; and 25%, progressive rehabilitation alone. Radiographic examination was attended by 187 patients (68%). Six percent of the cohort had radiographic tibiofemoral OA (K&L grade ≥2) in the index knee; 4%, in the contralateral knee. Using the alternative cutoffs at K&L grade ≥2/osteophyte and K&L grade ≥1, the corresponding numbers were 20% and 33% in the index knee and 18% and 29% in the contralateral knee. Six percent had a painful index knee. There were no statistically significant differences in any radiographic outcomes or knee pain among the 3 management groups.
Conclusion: There were no statistically significant differences in any 5-year radiographic outcomes or knee pain among the 3 management groups. Very few of the patients who participated in our decision-making and treatment algorithm had knee OA or knee pain at 5 years.
Keywords: ACL; aging athlete; knee; articular cartilage; physical therapy/rehabilitation.
© The Author(s) 2021.