New Knee Procedure to Aid ACL Surgery

Every year, about 200,000 Americans have surgery to repair a torn ACL. This surgery fails in about ten percent of patients. Tens of thousands of people may require additional surgery to repair injury from sports or an accident, a new study found.   A new method of reconstruction surgery is making the knee more stable for some patients.

Dr. Steven Claes, a Belgian researcher, discovered in 2012 that an undefined ligament ran along the outside of the knee. He named it the anterolateral ligament (ALL). In fall of 2013, a study of his findings was released in the Journal of Anatomy, produced by a British professional group. When the study was published, it generated headlines in many news outlets, including the New York Times.

There is no data to show how often surgeons are using the new technique, but doctors say they perform the procedure in about 20% of their ACL patients. The ALL could be damaged at the same time as the ACL tear. Failure to reconstruct the ligament may account for surgery failure in some patients, where the repaired knee gives way when turning quickly.

In the ALL procedure, devices to use as anchors are placed in patient’s thigh and shinbone, connecting them with a tendon to replace the damaged ligament. These devices are approved by the FDA for other types of knee surgery. The new procedure costs around $2,500.

The procedure is gaining popularity. Dr. Claes gives demonstrations to other surgeons on how to use the devices, made by company Arthrex. Results of the procedure have been positive. A French clinic which performed dozens of the ALL reconstructions reported a sharp drop in patients reinjuring the ACL. The procedure may restrict the knee’s range of motion, but this could be desirable in those with repeated failed ACL reconstructions.
Meier, Barry. “Surgery Fixes a Ligament (if It Exists). Does It Fix the Knee?” Business. The New York Times, 25 Jul 2016. Web. 26 Jul 2016.

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