ACL Tears Increase Arthritis Risk

Published Online: Sunday, May 1, 2005

A study conducted by Boston researchers examined the effect of tears of the knee's anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). The researchers found that ACL tears also increase the risk and severity of knee osteoarthritis (OA). For the study, the researchers looked at 360 men and women, mean age of 67, with advanced painful knee OA and 73 control participants. In the control group, 48 had knee OA but no pain, and 25 had neither knee OA symptoms nor knee discomfort. The individuals with advanced OA had a marginally higher body mass index, compared with the control group.

Using magnetic resonance imaging to evaluate the occurrence of past cruciate ligament tears in the participants, the researchers found that posterior cruciate ligament tears were observed in <1% of the study group and none in the control group. A bigger difference was seen in ACL tears. The results of the study indicated ACL tears were found in almost 25% of the participants with advanced knee OA, compared with <3% of the control group. Approximately 48% of the participants with complete ACL tears reported a previous knee injury.

"Due to the cross-sectional nature of this study, we could not ascertain when the ACL ruptures occurred. The interval between ACL injury and significant knee symptoms may be as long as 30 years, providing one explanation for low recall of significant knee injury in our study," said researcher Catherine L. Hill, MD.

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