To critically review recent literature on outcomes following primary surgical repair of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).
In December 2018, a search of the MEDLINE database was conducted for English language articles reporting clinical outcomes of ACL repair from 2003 to 2018. Included studies were evaluated for patient demographics, patient-reported outcome measures, return to sports/work, patient satisfaction, and postoperative complications. Subgroup analysis was conducted for studies that included patients with only type 1/proximal ACL ruptures.
Twenty-eight studies satisfied the inclusion criteria, comprising 2,401 patients (52.3% male, 35.7% female, 12.0% unspecified gender) with mean age ranging from 6.0 to 43.3 years. Most studies were conducted in Europe (82.1%), were level of evidence IV (60.7%), and were designed as case series (57.1%). Fourteen investigations (50.0%) used primary suture repair and 14 (50.0%) used dynamic intraligamentary stabilization. Preoperative ranges for Lysholm, International Knee Documentation Committee Score subjective, and Tegner scores were 28 to 100, 94.1 to 100, and 2 to 9, respectively. Postoperative ranges for the same measures were 80 to 100, 54.3 to 98, and 3.67 to 7, respectively. Time to return to sport/work ranged from 3.1 ± 3.3 to 17.4 ± 1.5 weeks. Frequency of rerupture, revision ACL surgery, and overall reoperations were as high as 23.1%, 33.3%, and 51.5%, respectively. Overall ACL repair survivorship ranged from 60.0% to 100.0%. In subgroup analysis for proximal ruptures treated with repair, the rates of revision ACL reconstruction (ACLR) and total reoperations were as high as 12.9% and 18.2%, respectively.
Based on our cumulative findings across 2,401 patients from the 28 included studies, it appears that ACLR results in better survivorship and patient-perceived postoperative improvement when compared with ACL repair. At present, ACLR appears to remain the superior treatment strategy in the vast majority of cases.
LEVEL OF EVIDENCE:
Level IV, systematic review of Level II to IV studies.