Early Operative Versus Delayed or Nonoperative Treatment of Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries in Pediatric Patients

Kristina L Dunn, Kenneth C Lam, Tamara C Valovich McLeod
Journal of Athletic Training 2016, 51 (5): 425-7

UNLABELLED: Reference: Ramski DE, Kanj WW, Franklin CC, Baldwin KD, Ganley TJ. Anterior cruciate ligament tears in children and adolescents: a meta-analysis of nonoperative versus operative treatment. Am J Sports Med. 2014;42(11):2769-2776. Clinical Questions: In pediatric patients, does early operative treatment of an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury result in decreased knee instability compared with delayed or nonoperative treatment?

DATA SOURCES: This review focused on the PubMed/MEDLINE and EMBASE databases. The following query searches were used: ACL or anterior cruciate ligament and young or child or children or pediatric or immature. Dates searched were not specified. A separate search was also conducted of abstracts published between 2009 and 2011 from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons; American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine; International Society of Arthroscopy, Knee Surgery, and Orthopaedic Sports Medicine; European Society of Sports Traumatology, Knee Surgery, and Arthroscopy; American Orthopaedic Association; Arthroscopy Association of North America; Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America; and American Academy of Pediatrics conferences.

STUDY SELECTION: Available studies were included only if they were written in English; were of level 1, 2, or 3 evidence (grading taxonomy not stated); were cohort designs that compared nonoperative and operative treatments; involved an early versus delayed ACL reconstruction that could be prospective or retrospective; and reported primary outcome interest measures. Animal studies, basic science studies, case series, reviews, commentaries, and editorials were excluded from the review.

DATA EXTRACTION: A systematic assessment tool, Guide to Community Preventive Services: Systematic Reviews and Evidence-Based Recommendations, was used by 2 of the authors to independently grade the quality of each study that met the inclusion criteria. The tool focused on 6 areas: intervention and study description, sampling, measurement, analysis, interpretation of results, and other execution factors. This tool helped to ensure consistency, reduce bias, and improve the validity and reliability of preventive health care studies. Eleven studies met the inclusion criteria. Six studies compared nonoperative with operative treatment, and 5 studies compared early reconstruction (open physes) with delayed reconstruction (closed physes). Studies in this meta-analysis consisted of the following: four level-3 prospective studies, four level-3 retrospective studies, one level-2 retrospective study, one level-3 case-control study, and one level-3 study with both prospective and retrospective data collection. All of the studies included data related to patient demographics, treatment interventions, follow-up duration, presence of any meniscal symptoms, time to return to sport participation, patient-reported outcomes (International Knee Documentation Committee [IKDC], Lysholm, or Tegner scores), the need for a second surgical procedure, and any posttreatment problems.

MAIN RESULTS: Of those who chose the nonoperative route, 75% reported instability, whereas only 13.6% of those who had surgery reported instability. These data also showed that nonoperative or delayed-operative patients were 33.7 times more likely to report instability than the early operative group. Those who chose the nonoperative route had a 12 times greater risk (odds ratio = 12.2, 95% confidence interval = 1.55, 96.3) of developing a meniscal tear after the initial injury. Three studies included in the meta-analysis reported return to sport status, but only 2 studies provided adequate data for both operative and nonoperative patients. In 1 study, 92% of operative patients were able to return to sport, but only 43.75% of nonoperative patients were able to do so. The second study reported that all operative and nonoperative patients were able to return to the same level of sport after injury. Of those in the early operative group, 6% required a repeat surgical intervention for either an ACL rerupture or a meniscal tear, and 19% of those who initially chose nonoperative treatment eventually needed surgery to repair the ACL or meniscus. Findings favor the early operative group over the delayed operative and nonoperative groups based on IKDC scores. One study reported a significant difference in operative patients, with an IKDC mean score of 95 compared with 87 in the nonoperative group. Similarly, a different study reported a mean score of 94.6 in the early operative group compared with 82.4 in the delayed operative group and was stated to have met the minimal clinically important difference (MCID). The MCID was not met for the Lysholm and Tegner scores between operative and nonoperative patients.

CONCLUSIONS: The results of this meta-analysis favor early operative treatment for pediatric patients with ACL tears over delayed or nonoperative treatment. Early operative treatment is initiated shortly after the injury, while the patient is still skeletally immature and the growth plates are open. Current evidence suggests that early ACL reconstruction will result in less knee instability and a more likely return to the preinjury activity level without affecting the growth plates or causing growth disturbances.


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Philip Vitale

Nice quick facts. I like it.


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