Relationship Between Time to ACL Reconstruction and Presence of Adverse Changes in the Knee at the Time of Reconstruction

This 2018 article published by the National Library of Medicine states that people who delay having ACL reconstruction may be at higher risk for developing medial meniscus tears.



Treatment of patients with anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries is often complicated by secondary damage to the meniscus and cartilage.


To assess the association between time from ACL tear to ACL reconstruction (ACLR) and the presence of intra-articular injuries at the time of ACLR, including meniscal tears, irreparable meniscal tears, chondral damage, and knee compartment degenerative changes.

Study Design:

Cross-sectional study; Level of evidence, 3.


Consecutive patients undergoing primary ACLR performed by a single surgeon in a Canadian health system over a 5.5-year period were included. Age at ACLR, activity level prior to injury, time from injury to ACLR (TFI), presence and degree of radiographic osteoarthritic features (International Knee Documentation Committee [IKDC] score by tibiofemoral and/or patellofemoral compartment), and surgeon-recorded meniscal lesions (presence and treatment [repair or excision]) and chondral lesions (International Cartilage Repair Society [ICRS] scale grade >2) at time of ACLR were extracted from medical records. The association between TFI (in quartiles: first quartile [0-36 wk] through fourth quartile [110-1000 wk]) and each outcome was assessed with multivariable logistic regression adjusted for age at ACLR and activity level.


A total of 860 individual patient records were included. The median patient age was 27.0 years (range, 12-63 years), 47.5% were female (403/849), and 47.2% were classified as playing competitive or professional sports versus recreational sport (337/714). After adjustment for age and activity level, TFI was associated with presence of medial meniscal tear (odds ratio [OR] of fourth-quartile vs first-quartile patients, 3.86; 95% CI, 2.38-6.24; P < .001), medial meniscal tear requiring greater than two-thirds meniscectomy (OR, 5.64; 95% CI, 2.99-10.67; P < .001), medial femoral condyle chondral damage (OR, 3.42; 95% CI, 1.96-5.95; P < .001), and medial tibiofemoral radiographic osteoarthritic features (OR, 22.03; 95% CI, 5.17-93.86; P < .001). TFI was not associated with adverse outcomes in the lateral tibiofemoral or patellofemoral compartments.


Increases in TFI are associated with medial meniscal tears, including irreparable medial meniscal tears, medial femoral condyle chondral damage, and early medial tibiofemoral compartment degenerative changes at time of ACLR. These findings highlight the importance of establishing a timely diagnosis and implementing an appropriate treatment plan for patients with ACL injuries. This approach may prevent further instability episodes that place patients at risk of sustaining additional intra-articular injuries in the affected knee. Further research is required to understand the implications of TFI and to determine whether decreasing the TFI alters the natural history after an ACL injury.

Click here to read more.