ACL Reconstruction and Osteoarthritis

by Jsantos, July 19, 2013

ACL Reconstruction and Osteoarthritis

ACL damage is an extremely common knee injury that affects athletes regularly. The anterior cruciate ligament is located in your knee and it runs cross wise behind the knee cap. Anyone who plays sports that require stop and go or pivoting can be at risk of injury to this ligament. Women are much more likely to suffer from this injury than men. Often, the best course of treatment for ACL damage is through surgery. The orthopedic surgeon uses a fiber optic tube through a small incision to repair the torn area and clear away any debris that resulted from the injury.

ACL reconstruction surgery can be a very successful method of repairing the injury and returning the patient back to their regular way of life. However, before you undergo any procedure, you do need to know about any risks or concerns that could come from the surgery. Studies show that there is a definite link between the ACL reconstruction surgery and mild osteoarthritis.

The Likelihood

A study that took place in Australia at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital covered the likelihood of patients developing mild osteoarthritis after an ACL reconstruction procedure. This study indicated that about 1 in every 4 patients will develop arthritis to some level in the years following their procedure. It can actually develop decades later, leaving many patients never making the connection.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider ACL surgery. If the ligament has been damaged, then it will not recover properly on its own. If it has been severely damaged and you refuse surgery, you will likely never be able to play sports again and you will be much more likely to suffer other injuries like a torn meniscus. Overall, the benefits of the surgical procedure far outweigh any complications in most cases.

What Is Osteoarthritis?

As the most common form of osteoarthritis, this condition is a degenerative condition that usually results from general wear and tear on the knee. When the cartilage that is located between the bones wears down, pain, swelling and stiffness can result.

Generally, this condition develops with age, but it can result from certain specific situations, like ACL surgery. If the condition is mild, then it can be treated with simple therapies and medications. In most cases of ACL reconstruction, the osteoarthritis that does develop will be mild and easily treatable.

What You Can Do to Avoid It

If you do have ACL surgery, then you need to take all the precautions and recovery steps that your orthopedic doctor has ordered. It is vital that you allow the knee to heal properly to avoid further damage or extensive scar tissue. Other things that you can do in order to help lessen your chances of developing arthritis in the affected knee include:

  • Manage your weight. If you are overweight, you will be putting unnecessary stress on your knee.
  • Make sure you keep up with exercise after the knee has healed. You need to keep muscles strong as well as flexible to avoid unnecessary stress on ligaments.
  • Avoid any strenuous activity that could result in further injury to the knee.

If you have ACL surgery, there is a slight chance you will develop osteoarthritis in your knee. The study in Australia seems to point directly to this connection. However, avoiding the surgery could result in so many different complications that can affect the rest of your life.

If you have concerns about eventually developing osteoarthritis, be sure to discuss them with your surgeon. Remember that the vast majority of people do develop arthritis with age as it is, and the mild versions can be managed easily so that you don’t have to worry about this minor complication that could result from ACL procedures.



Surgeon’s Advice | Leon Mead MD Orthopedic Doctor | 730 Goodlette Road North, Suite 201  Naples Florida 34102 | Phone: (239) 262-1119

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