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Knee function improves after ligament repair

People who have surgery to repair a common knee ligament injury show improvement in knee function.

Knee function improves after ligament repair

People who have surgery to repair a common knee ligament injury show improvement in knee function as long as 15 years after undergoing the operation.

Injuries to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), which links the thigh bone to the shin bone, are common among young people, and typically treated by repairing the ligament. To examine the changes in the knee function after ACL reconstruction in patients with isolated ACL injury and combined injuries, researchers investigated long-term knee function and osteoarthritis in 221 patients in Norway between 15 and 50 years old who were treated with ACL repair between 1990 and 1997 - evaluating patients six months, one year, two years, and 10 to 15 years after the surgery. Various tests were done of participants for knee stability, strength and joint pain.

It was found that knee function improved over time based on every test. Patients who had additional knee injuries, for example tears in the cartilage between the thigh bone and shin bone at either side of the knee, had the same degree of improvement as the patients with ACL injuries only. However, 30 percent of patients overall continued to have some impairment in knee function.

Eighty percent of the patients with combined injuries developed osteoarthritis of the knee as shown on X-rays, compared to 62 percent of the patients with ACL-only injury. Differences in the likelihood of having symptoms of arthritis in the knee such as pain and swelling - 46 percent for patients with combined injuries, and 32 percent for patients with ACL injuries alone - were not statistically significant.

The study shows that the majority of persons with isolated and combined injuries seem to restore and maintain good, even if not normal, knee function more than 10 years after the ACL reconstruction. There is, however, a significantly higher prevalence of X-ray evidence of knee osteoarthritis in patients with combined injuries.
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