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Surgery to repair ACL and meniscus injuries may not reduce osteoarthritis risk

June 29, 2010 |  1:03 pm

Torn anterior cruciate ligaments and menisci, common knee injuries, are often repaired by surgery. But those surgical repairs won't necessarily stave off osteoarthritis, says a new study.

L4lhnunc The study, published online and in the August issue of the journal Radiology, focused on 326 men and women who were part of a previous 855-person study from 1996 to 1997 comparing the use of MRIs to arthroscopy as diagnostic tools for knee pain. ACL tears and ruptures are common knee injuries, especially for those who engage in sports. Having an ACL injury can cause a chain of deleterious events in the knee, including damage to the meniscus, a wedge of cartilage that reduces friction between joints when they move. The ACL is one of four major knee ligaments.

Following up about 10 years later with patients from the original study, researchers found that people who had had ACL ruptures had greater risk of developing a number of complications associated with osteoarthritis, including joint space narrowing, bone marrow lesions, and subchondral cysts, which occur near joints. Patients with a torn meniscus had similar higher risks.

Osteoarthritis developed despite treating some of the injuries with surgery.

"There is a higher risk of developing knee osteoarthritis at specific sites after tearing a meniscus or cruciate ligament," said lead author Dr. Kasper Huetink in a news release. Huetink, resident radiologist at Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands, added, "We showed a direct relationship between injury and long-term consequences, and showed that surgery has no impact on long-term outcomes."

-- Jeannine Stein

Photo credit: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times