Delayed ligamentization following anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction (ACLR) may result in reduced graft stiffness and strength, and an increased risk of secondary re-tear. Remnant sparing ACLR may accelerate ligamentization and proprioceptive function, theoretically reducing re-injury risk. This study sought to investigate 10-year graft failure rates and patient perceived knee functioning in those undergoing ACLR with remnant preservation (RP), versus remnant debridement (RD).
A prospective RCT allocated 49 patients to ACLR with a hamstrings autograft together with a RD (n = 25) or RP (n = 24) procedure, of which 86% were clinically evaluated at 10 years (22 RD, 22 RP). A detailed chart review and patient phone consultation was undertaken with all patients at 10 years to evaluate the incidence (and timing) of subsequent re-tear and/or contralateral ACL tear, as well as other knee injuries/surgeries, the patient's ability to perform full work/sport duties and their perceived knee function using a numerical rating scale (NRS).
No significant differences existed between groups in descriptive variables. There were 2 graft ruptures (10.0%) in the RP group and 3 (13.6%) in the RD group, with an earlier mean time to graft failure in the RD group (RD 7.7 +/- 4.5 months, RP 49.5 +/- 17.7 months), albeit the size of this sub-sample was too small for statistical comparison. There was a significantly higher number of patients requiring ae 1 additional ipsilateral knee surgery in the RP group (RP = 10, RD = 4, p = 0.048). At 10 years, there were no significant group differences in the percentage of patients returning to unrestricted activity, with 16 (72.7%) and 15 (75.0%) patients in the RD and RP ACLR groups, respectively, unrestricted in work/sport duties. There were no significant group differences in the functional NRS ratings.
No long term clinical benefit of RP ACLR could be determined by this study with similar re-tear incidence and perceived knee function. A statistically higher number of re-operations were observed in RP ACLR patients and, while re-tears were observed later after RP versus RD ACLR, the study was underpowered to detect statistical significance.
Level II (prospective randomized controlled trial).