Tears of the anterior cruciate ligament: primary and secondary signs at MR imaging

Radiology. 1993 Sep;188(3):661-7. doi: 10.1148/radiology.188.3.8351329.


To investigate primary and secondary signs of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear at magnetic resonance (MR) imaging, the authors retrospectively reviewed 103 MR imaging examinations obtained in 99 patients, the original interpretations of these examinations, clinical records, and arthroscopy reports. Fifty cases of arthroscopy-documented complete ACL tear were included. The primary signs of ACL tear (ie, abnormal ACL morphologic features or signal intensity) had respective sensitivity and specificity values of 96% (48 of 50 examinations) and 94% (50 of 53) on sagittal images and 92% (46 of 50) and 83% (43 of 52) on coronal images. As a secondary sign of ACL tear, bone bruise involving the lateral compartment of the knee was found in 40% (20 of 50) of cases of ACL tear and in 4% (2 of 53) of cases of normal ACL. The mean curvature of the posterior cruciate ligament was increased (0.40 vs 0.27; P < .0001) in cases of ACL tear. An abnormal appearance of the ACL on sagittal images remains the single most sensitive and specific sign of ACL tear.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament / pathology
  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries*
  • Arthroscopy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Knee Injuries / diagnosis
  • Knee Joint / pathology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Tibia / pathology