Spontaneous healing of acute ACL ruptures: rate, prognostic factors and short-term outcome

Arch Orthop Trauma Surg. 2023 Jul;143(7):4291-4298. doi: 10.1007/s00402-022-04701-0. Epub 2022 Dec 14.


Introduction: Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction is considered the first line treatment in ACL rupture. However, some patients return to high intensity sport activities and show a normal knee function without ACL reconstruction. Therefore, aim of this study was to evaluate the rate and prognostic factors of spontaneous healing in patients with ACL rupture and the short-term functional outcome.

Methods: The rate, prognostic factors and short-term functional results of spontaneous healing in patients with ACL rupture were evaluated in 381 patients. Morphology of ACL rupture and extent of posterior tibial slope (PTS) were classified by MR- and x-ray imaging. In patients with normal knee stability in anesthesia examination and healed ACL during the arthroscopy 6 weeks after trauma ACL reconstruction was canceled. IKDC -, Tegner Activity Score, KT 1000 testing and radiological characteristics were collected 12 months postoperatively in these patients.

Results: 14.17% of the patients with ACL rupture showed a spontaneous healing after 6 weeks. Femoral ACL-rupture (p < 0.02) with integrity of ligament stump > 50% (p < 0.001), without bundle separation (p < 0.001) and decreased PTS (p < 0.001) was found significantly more often in patients with a spontaneous healed ACL. The average IKDC score was high at 84,63 in patients with healed ACL at 1 year follow-up, but KT 1000 testing was inferior compared to non-injured side.

Conclusion: Spontaneous healing of a ruptured ACL happened in 14% of the patients. Especially in low-demand patients with femoral single bundle lesions without increased posterior tibial slope delayed ACL surgery should be considered to await the possibility for potential spontaneous ACL healing.

Keywords: ACL rupture; Conservative; Non-surgical; Spontaneous healing.

MeSH terms

  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries* / surgery
  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament* / surgery
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Knee Joint / surgery
  • Prognosis
  • Treatment Outcome