Functional anterior cruciate ligament braces may have a role in select patient groups although there is presently limited evidence supporting or refuting their routine use: A scoping review of clinical practice guidelines and an updated bracing classification

Knee Surg Sports Traumatol Arthrosc. 2024 Apr 23. doi: 10.1002/ksa.12203. Online ahead of print.


Purpose: The purpose of this study was to perform a scoping review of clinical practice guidelines (CPGs) concerning the use of functional anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) braces and to clarify the nomenclature for bracing relevant to ACL injury treatment in order to support prescribing clinicians.

Methods: A PubMed search for CPGs for the use of braces following ACL injury or reconstruction was performed. CPGs on the treatment of ACL injuries with sufficient attention to postoperative braces were included in this scoping review. The references used for supporting the specific CPG recommendations were reviewed. Specific indications for brace use including brace type, period of use following surgery and activities requiring brace use were collected.

Results: Six CPGs were identified and included this this review. Three randomised trials provided the evidence for recommendations on functional brace use following ACL reconstruction in the six CPGs. Functional ACL braces were the primary focus of the three randomised trials, although extension braces (postoperative knee immobilisers) were also discussed. A novel dynamic ACL brace category has been described, although included CPGs did not provide guidance on this brace type.

Conclusions: Guidance on the use of functional ACL braces following ACL reconstruction is provided in six CPGs supported by three randomised trials. However, the brace protocols and patient compliance in the randomised trials render these CPGs inadequate for providing guidance on the use of functional ACL braces in the general and high-risk patient populations when returning to sport after ACL reconstruction. Functional ACL braces are commonly utilised during the course of ACL injury treatment although there is presently limited evidence supporting or refuting the routine use of these braces. Future studies are, therefore, necessary in order to provide guidance on the use of functional and dynamic ACL braces in high-risk patient populations.

Level of evidence: Level II.

Keywords: anterior cruciate ligament; functional brace; graft failure; reconstruction.

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