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Knee. 2010 Mar;17(2):108-13. doi: 10.1016/j.knee.2009.07.013. Epub 2009 Aug 31.

Synthetic grafts for anterior cruciate ligament rupture: 19-year outcome study.

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I Divisione, Istituto Ortopedico G. Pini, Milano, Italy.


Artificial ligaments for ACL replacement have been widely used in the 1980s and early 1990s in orthopaedic surgery. Synthetic devices have been utilized either as a prosthetic material or as an augmentation for a biological ACL graft substitute. The initial enthusiasm surrounding the introduction of synthetic graft materials stemmed from their lack of donor morbidity, their abundant supply and significant strength of these devices. The disadvantages in long-term follow-up were found to be cross-infections, immunological responses, tunnels osteolysis, femural and tibial fractures, foreign-body synovitis and knee osteoarthritis. A total of 126 patients were treated with artificial ACL substitution with polyethylene terephthalate (PET) synthetic ligaments in our Institute between 1986 and 1990. Of the original group, 51 sportsmen aged 15 to 40 were followed-up at a mean of 19years (range 17.5 to 20.6years) after surgery. Assessment was made with KOOS and IKDC score, Tegner activity scale, clinical examination, KT-1000 arthrometer, and X-ray evaluation. Of the 51 patients followed-up, 27.5% were found to have ruptured their PET ligaments and 100% presented degenerative osteoarthritis at the X-ray evaluation according to Ahlb├Ąck radiological classification of arthritis. The objective evaluation showed functional impairment in 29.4% with an average reduction of 3 points in the Tegner activity scale. The osteoarthritis observed in all patients prompted us to avoid the diffusion of this surgical technique. Although in theory well-conceived, studies have yet to substantiate the function of these augmentation devices or to show clinical better results than those achieved with isolated autograft or allograft ACL substitutes.

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