Reconstruction of the Anterior Cruciate Ligament in the Skeletally Immature Athlete: A Review of Current Concepts

Intrasubstance tears of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) were once considered a rare injury in skeletally immature athletes but are now observed with increasing frequency. Treatment strategies have evolved as recent studies have identified unique considerations specific to the skeletally immature patient. The current literature now supports the trend toward early operative treatment to restore knee stability and prevent progressive meniscal and/or articular carti- lage damage, but the optimal approach to ACL reconstruction in this age group remains controversial. Despite the reported clinical success of transphyseal reconstruction, iatrogenic growth disturbance secondary to physeal damage remains a genuine concern. The reluctance to place drill-holes across open physes has led to the development of numerous ‘‘physeal-sparing’’ reconstruction techniques using anatomic femoral and tibial footprints that have adequately restored anteroposterior and rotational knee stability in biomechanical studies but have demonstrated mixed results in the clinical setting. The intent of this review is to (1) highlight the unique anatomic considerations pertaining to ACL reconstruction in the skeletally immature athlete, (2) discuss preoperative clinical and radiographic assessment of the pediatric patient with a suspected ACL injury, (3) review transphyseal and physeal-sparing reconstruction techniques and highlight surgical technical considerations, (4) present clinical outcomes according to patient and technique-specific factors, and (5) review age-specific injury prevention treatment strategies and a novel treatment algorithm based on skeletal maturity. ACL reconstruction in the skeletally immature athlete typically results in a successful clinical outcome, yet the optimal surgical technique is still controversial. This review will help guide the management of ACL injuries in the pediatric athlete.

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