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The Reconstruction of the Anterior Cruciate
Ligament on the Background of Knee Osteoarthritis
Golovakha ML1*, Orljanski W2 and Benedetto KP3
1Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Zaporozhye State Medical University, Ukraine
2Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Vienna Private Clinic, Austria
3Privatklinik Hochrum, Sanatorium der Kreuzschwestern GmbH A-6063 Rum, Austria
Submission: June 18, 2019; Published: July 03, 2019
*Corresponding author: Golovakha ML, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Zaporozhye State Medical University, Mayakovskyi avenue 26, Zaporozhye, Ukraine
How to cite this article: Golovakha ML, Orljanski W, Benedetto KP. The Reconstruction of the Anterior Cruciate Ligament on the Background of Knee
Osteoarthritis. J Phy Fit Treatment & Sports. 2019; 6(4): 555693. DOI:10.19080/JPFMTS.2018.05.555693
Instability of the knee joint due to the injury of the anterior cruciate ligament is the issue which constantly draws attention of orthopedists. There is a constant development of methods of the reconstruction of the anterior cruciate ligament which, in its turn, primarily connected with a more accurate positioning of the graft attachment. There is a polemic in progress dedicated to the choice of the graft for the reconstruction of the anterior cruciate ligament and the ways of its attachment [1-5]. However, the instability backsets occur in 5-25 % of the cases and the level of patients returning to sport after the plastic reconstruction of the anterior cruciate ligament is from 60 to 80 % [1-8]. There is a special group which consists of the patients with the injury of the anterior cruciate ligament who have cartilage lesion or ongoing osteoarthritis of the knee. The results of the treatment of these patients are poor, since in most cases they are recommended to follow the conservative treatment. On the other hand, there is no clear guidance of how to proceed in such cases. A purely mechanistic approach – the reconstruction of each damaged cruciate ligament is not always justified, since the operation in the presence of osteoarthritis contributes to its progression. The aim of this work was to develop a technique of differential selection of indications for surgical treatment of the anterior instability of the knee with osteoarthritis.
The conducted study was based on the analysis of the remote results of 149 patients with osteoarthritis of the knee, which were operated from 2 to 12 years ago. The age of the patients was from 36 to 63 years. Men - 86, women - 63.
a) Osteoarthritis of the knee joint of the I-II stages by Kellgren-Lawrence Grading Scale.
b) Traumatic injuries to the anterior cruciate ligament not older than 2 years.
c) Body mass index 30.
d) The absence of long term synovitis, subchondral lesions of the bone edema on MRI, osteoporosis, nicotine addiction more than 2 packs of cigarettes a day.
e) Radiography or MRI at the follow-up in the long term.
All the patients had the reconstruction of the anterior cruciate ligament performed using autografts of semitendinosus and tender muscles’ hamstrings that were fixed with interfering screws and “endo-buttons”. Corrective osteotomy was performed at the opening procedure with osteosynthesis plates with angular stability screws. Wedge-shaped defect bone grafting was performed during the opening of more than 10 mm. Indications for corrective osteotomy considered articular cartilage damage of the medial space (part) of the knee joint on the background of constitutional varus deformity. Cartilage condition was evaluated on the basis of MRI and confirmed during arthroscopy. Assessment of varus deformity was performed by the frontal X-ray of the knee joint when standing and medial tibial angle was measured. At its value less than 86° high corrective osteotomy of the tibia was performed. The change of tibial plateau leveling was performed with the values of more than 10° and less than 3°.
Postoperative treatment after the anterior cruciate ligament
reconstruction was performed using the standard technique.
When performing simultaneous corrective osteotomy, contrast
concerned the period of the limb support. Patients walked on
crutches with dosed weight bearing for 6 weeks, then another 6
weeks with a cane, then without additional support. In general,
the treatment selection was not always the same as patients
were operated during a long period from 2002 to 2010. There
was a substantial lack of generally accepted recommendations
for the choice of the treatment and adequate proper experience
at the beginning.
i. The stage of osteoarthritis by Kellgren-Lawrence
ii. The medial tibial angle.
iii. The angle of the posterior tibial plateau - “Tibial Slope”.
iv. The size and the grade of cartilage damage by Outer
v. The degree of joint space narrowing based on the
methods of the Osteoarthritis Research Society International
Due to this procedure there are three grades of the joint
space narrowing. 0 grade – normal state, I grade - narrowing to
½ of the height, II grade – narrowing more than ½ of the height,
III grade - bone touches the bone.
The analysis of the long-term results was performed in two
ways: evaluation of the knee stability and signs of progression
of gonarthrosis. To assess the impact of the primary parameters
the correlation between them, I.K.D.C. scale and Lequesne index
was made, which were used for the assessment of the long-term
The age of the patients in this subgroup was from 36 to 63
years (50.8 years on average). Men - 86 women - 63. Analysis
showed that most of the patients (72.5%) were under the age of
55 years (Table 1). In this case the specific weight of the other
age groups was almost identical except for the group over 60
years (4.0%). There were more patients in the age group from
36 to 49 years (40.9%). All this testifies to the homogeneity of
the sample demographics. Among 149 patients, 4 subgroups
were formed due to the types of surgical interference (Table
2). The analysis of the results of the treatment was conducted
separately within each group. The long term results in the “ACL
reconstruction on the background of gonarthrosis” group. The
group of 74 patients (from 36 to 63 years). In assessing the longterm
results (within 2-12 years) a progression of the joint space
narrowing was marked in some of the cases. Thus, among the
58 patients without joint space narrowing before surgery, 17
(29.3 %) had progression of osteoarthritis, which is ascertained
from the increase of the joint space narrowing. The long term
results of the treatment on I.K.D.C. scale is shown in Figure 1. It
should be noted that there were lesions of the anterior cruciate
ligament graft in 8 cases (10%). There is the link between the
long term results of the treatment due to Lequesne index and the
value of the medial tibial angle before surgery. The distribution
of the patients according to this indicator is shown in Figure 2.
Patients with the medial tibial angle of 85 and 86° the worst
results of the treatment due to Lequesne index.
Figure 3 Diagram of the dependence of Lequesne index from
the magnitude of the medial tibial angle (in the long term) in
the “ACL reconstruction on the background of gonarthrosis”
subgroup. Simultaneously, these groups initially had the largest
proportion of cartilage lesions of the III and IV grades. All 74
patients in this subgroup had various degrees of the cartilage
damage. Concerning the clinical significance, we have divided
them into two groups of I-II and III-IV grades which we’ve
divided into two subgroups due to the area of damage to 4 cm2
and more than 4 cm2. The data presented in Table 3. Dependence
on the size of the cartilage of the medial tibial angle is presented
in Figures 4 & 5. There is a clear correlation in the diagrams
between the values of the medial tibial angle of 85-86° and the
presence of significant cartilage lesions. Thus, we can conclude
that the constitutional varus deformity significantly affects the
development of osteoarthritis of the knee. That is, in cases where
the patient has the ACL damage on the background of medial
osteoarthritis of the knee combined with a varus deformity
rather difficult to expect a positive outcome of treatment.
Long-term results in the subgroup of patients “ACL reconstruction + chondroplasty” (mosaic plastic reconstruction - 6 patients, micro fracturing – 36
A group of 42 patients, ages from 42 to 60 years. In assessing
the long term results (within 2-12 years) the progression of joint
space narrowing was also noted among these patients. Thus,
among the 28 patients without joint space narrowing before
surgery, 9 (32.1 %) had the progression of osteoarthritis, which
is ascertained from the increase in joint space narrowing. In this
treatment results did not differ much from that of the first group,
where micro fracturing or mosaic plastic reconstruction were
not carried (Figure 6). The form of the diagram substantially
corresponds to the results of the first subgroup, which are
shown in Figure 1.
It should be noted that there were lesions of the anterior
cruciate ligament graft in 4 cases (9.5%), despite the fact that the
proportion of cartilage lesions of the III-IV grades in this group
were significantly higher (Table 4). The values of the medial
tibial angle slightly differ from from those of the previous group
(Figure 7). It also shows the dependence of Lequesne index on
the medial tibial angle value (Figure 8). However, according
to the shape of the histogram, this dependence is statistically
unreliable as the indicators are somewhat heterogeneous.
Nevertheless, the tendency obtained in the analysis of the first
subgroup, is being indirectly confirmed, and some heterogeneity
of the layers, in our opinion, is due to a small number of cases
Aggregation of the patients with micro fracturing and
mosaic plastic reconstruction into one sample is caused by
numerous literature data with comparable results of these
methods chondroplasty. Figure 8 Diagram of the dependence
of Lequesne index (in the long term) on the medial tibial angle
value in the “ACL reconstruction + chondroplasty” subgroup.
The results of the treatment of the patients in the second group
“ACL reconstruction + chondroplasty” confirm the fact that the
reconstruction of the ACL on the background of gonarthrosis
with the presence of the damage to the articular cartilage would
be successful if there is no substantial constitutional varus
The results of the treatment of the patients in the
“ACL reconstruction + chondroplasty + high corrective
tibial osteotomy” subgroup
A group of 21 patients, age from 36 to 57 years. During the
assessment of the long term results of the treatment (after 6-10
years in this subgroup) it was noted that the progression of joint
space narrowing among these patients. At the time of surgery, all patients had joint space narrowing: I grade - 7 patients, II grade
– 14 patients. In terms of assessing the long term outcomes there
was a progression observed in 6 patients (28.5 %). The results
of the treatment are presented in Figure 9. There were 3 cases
(14.2%) of the damage of the anterior cruciate ligament graft.
It should be noted that this group had a statistically insufficient
sample, so it is possible to talk only about the tendency. The main
difference of this group from the others was the medial tibial
angle values, which ranged from 82° to 86° (84.6° on average).
The level of the tibial slope ranged from 7 to 14°. That is, the given
subgroup included patients with the varus knee cartilage injury
of the medial and anterior cruciate ligament injuries. Despite the
small number - 21 cases, it is still possible to compare the size
and grade of cartilage damage from the previous subgroup. The
nature of the cartilage injuries was not significantly different
from the “ACL reconstruction + chondroplasty” subgroup (Table
A clinical example. Patient L, 52 years old, medial tibial
angle of 82°, tibial slope of 13°, joint space narrowing of the II
grade (Figure 10). Operated on six years ago, 6 weeks after the
injury. Femoral and tibial cartilage defects were found during
the revision of the knee (Figure 11). The ACL autoplastic and
corrective osteotomy using the opening procedure with the
correction the front axle was performed. Rating on I.K.D.C. scale
- Group A. Lequesne index - 1. Radiological results are shown
in (Figure 12). Clinical example. Patient F, 32 years old, medial
tibial angle of 83°, tibial slope of 12°, joint space narrowing of
the I grade (Figure 13). Operated on five years ago, 7 weeks
after the injury. Damage of the femoral bone and tibial plateau
were found during the revision of the knee cartilage (Figure
14). ACL autoplasty and corrective osteotomy using the opening
procedure with the correction the front axle and a decrease in
the tibial slope (5°) was performed. Rating on I.K.D.C. scale -
Group A. Lequesne index - 0. Radiological results are shown in
(Figures 15 & 16).
Results of the treatment of the patients in the “High
corrective tibial osteotomy with the change of the
tibial slope + chondroplasty” subgroup
A group of 12 patients, age from 52 to 59 years. In assessing
the long term results of the treatment (4-6 years in this subgroup)
the progression of joint space narrowing among these patients
was also noted. At the time of surgery, all patients had joint space
narrowing: II grade - 5 patients, III grade – 7 patients. During
the assessment of the of long term results progression observed
in 3 patients (25.0%). This group consisted of the patients with
medial tibial angle values ranging from 81° to 86° (84,2° on
average). The main distinguishing feature of this group was the
level of the tibial plateau of 11° or more. During the corrective
osteotomy we reduced the level of the tibial plateau at 5-10°.
There were the cartilage injuries of the III-IV grade with the
area of more than 4 cm2 in all the cases. That is, this subgroup
included patients with the anterior cruciate ligament injuries
in combination with varus deformity of the knee, significant
damage of the medial part of the cartilage and significantly
greater joint space narrowing (Figures 17 & 18).
It should be noted that due to the number of cases of the
anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction annually runs into
tens of thousands [1,5,8-10]. Leading journals publish works that
explore the benefits of different techniques of its reconstruction
assess the benefits of different types of transplants and implants
for their fixation. The share of publications dedicated to the
long term results and complications remains low. So, there
were 225 publications on methods of the ACL reconstruction,
19 publications on the long term results complications in the
Journal of Arthroscopic and Related Surgery and “KSSTA” in
2017. Each author uses special scales for the assessment that
characterize the stability and function of the knee joint, the
level of physical activity and quality of life of the patients.
Regardless of the combination of rating scales, the results
are usually divided into “excellent”, “good”, “satisfactory” and
“unsatisfactory”. At the same time, the level of attention paid
to the reasons which led to all the results other than “great” is
not enough. The main reasons for the imperfect results can be
divided into two groups: recurrent instability; the development
of osteoarthritis of the knee. In this paper we want to analyze the
causes of the second order, as the reasons of repeated injuries of
the ACL are described in a great number of works. The share of
the ACL transplants damage ranges from 5 to 24% and has no
tendency to decrease (Figure 19).
In our opinion, a special problem group consists of the
patients with the anterior or anteromedial instability on the
background of chronic anterior cruciate ligament injury. A
number of these patients have already started to develop posttraumatic
gonarthrosis which is confirmed by arthroscopy.
We are talking about patients with the first or second stage of
gonarthrosis. Nevertheless, the functions of the knee joint are
usually preserved, and major complaints relate precisely to the
instability of the knee [6,9,11,12]. Thus, we have a patient with
osteoarthritis of the knee with chronic anteromedial instability,
complaining of the instability and pain in the medial part. The
goals of treatment in such cases are:
a) To slow down the progression of osteoarthritis.
b) To restore the knee stability. There is a problem with
the choice of proper treatment strategy in such situations.
Major doubts arise about the advisability of the reconstruction
of the anterior cruciate ligament of the knee joint with a slowly
progressing osteoarthritis [7,9,13,14]. Basic questions. Would
not the surgery accelerate the progression of the degenerative
process? Will we reach stability if we remove the pain in the
knee? How to successfully reconstruct the anterior cruciate
ligament on the background of developing varus deformity? In
this regard, this study showed that the reconstruction of the
anterior cruciate ligament on the background is possible and
properly selected indications and techniques can achieve quite
acceptable positive long-term results. In this case it is necessary
to predict the result from two perspectives: the grade of the
recurrence of the instability and the level of progression of
osteoarthritis. In our sample of patients, the instability relapse
rate reached 10%, which is comparable with the results of the
primary ACL reconstruction. The share of the progression of
osteoarthritis in the long term ranged from 30 % in the group
with its initial manifestations and up to 50 % in patients with significant defects of articular cartilage and joint space
narrowing of the III grade (bone touches the bone).
As a result, we found out that constitutional varus deformity,
which we evaluated by the medial tibial angle, significantly affects
the results of the anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction in
cases where the process of destruction of the articular cartilage
of the medial part of the knee has already begun. With its values
less than 85° there was a marked progression of osteoarthritis
in all the cases. In cases where patients with constitutional
varus deformity had corrective osteotomy the proportion of
progression of osteoarthritis was comparable with the group of
patients without a varus deformity. Why did we apply the medial
tibial angle indicator to assess the mechanical axis of the limb?
We didn’t have the opportunity to make an X-ray view of the
entire limb due to the lack of the equipment. Despite the fact
that this figure indirectly characterizes mechanical axis of the
limb, we have often used it in such cases and got statistically
significant results. A separate small group consisted of patients
who have had extensive cartilage defects, a significant narrowing
of the joint space in combination with large tibial slope (11°
or more). In such cases valgus osteotomy with its decrease of
7-10° allowed to stabilize the knee joint and slow down the
progression of osteoarthritis.
Based on this study, we tried to form our own tactics of
choice of the surgical treatment for patients with ACL injuries
on the background of osteoarthritis of the knee of the I-II grades.
i. The patient’s age is very important. We rarely
encountered indications in patients older than 60 years in
our work. The main group consisted of patients not older
than 55 years.
ii. We have not included patients with a body mass
index over 30 into this group. ACL reconstruction on the
background of gonarthrosis in patients with a body mass
index over 30 remains the subject of debate.
iii. We did not assess the treatment results depending
on the sex of the patients due to an insufficient sampling.
However, there is a tendency that men have the best results.
iv. Patients under the age of 60 years, without the varus
deformation damage to the articular cartilage may have
the ACL reconstruction with predicted good results of the
treatment. If such a patient has the articular cartilage damage
of the I-IV grades area up to 4 cm2, it is quite possible to
perform micro fracturing, mosaic plastic reconstruction or
other ways the correction of this defect.
v. If the patient has varus deformity or large cartilage
defects greater than 4 cm2, which itself leads to the formation
of secondary varus is an indication for the simultaneous ACL
reconstruction and high valgus tibial osteotomy.
vi. In some cases, when a patient with a varus deformity
and damage to the ACL has a large tibial slope (11° and more),
it is needed to consider both varus deformity correction and
tibial slope reduction.
Chronic instability eventually leads to deterioration of
the cartilage in the medial part. Restoring stability of the
knee due to the anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction and
geometry changes in the frontal and sagittal planes by valgus
reconstruction and tibial slope reduction lead to a decrease in
the mechanical load on the graft as well as a slower deterioration
of the cartilage. It is unlikely that the anterior cruciate ligament
reconstruction will enable completely to stop the cartilage from
the destruction and the development of osteoarthritis, but the
restoration of the stability of the knee improves the quality of
life for the patients. The results of the reconstruction of the
anterior cruciate ligament on the background of osteoarthritis of
the knee are almost always good in the first 5-7 years, regardless
of the combination of the corrective osteotomy, but in 10 years
- about 25% of the patients already have indications for the
prosthetics. It’s hard enough to answer all the questions that
arise in the course of the ACL reconstruction on the background
of gonarthrosis and their number in constantly increasing.
The proposed criteria also are the target of polemics. What to
do if those criteria are not applicable to this very patient? Our
statistics show that there is not sufficiently high probability of
the positive long term results. As always, this gap is filled with
personal experience of an orthopedist. ACL reconstruction on
the background of gonarthrosis? Rather YES than NO.