Background: An anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) rupture has major consequences at midterm follow-up, with an increasing chance of developing an old knee in a young patient. The long-term (≥20 years) effects of the operative and nonoperative treatment of ACL ruptures are still unclear.
Purpose: To compare the long-term treatment outcomes of operative versus nonoperative treatment of ACL ruptures in high-level athletes.
Study Design: Cohort study; Level of evidence, 2.
Methods: Fifty patients with an ACL rupture were eligible for participation, and they were treated either nonoperatively (n = 25) in 1992, consisting of structured rehabilitation and lifestyle adjustments, or operatively (n = 25) between 1994 and 1996 with an arthroscopic transtibial bone–patellar tendon–bone technique. The patients in the nonoperative group were drawn from those who responded well to 3 months of nonoperative treatment, whereas the patients in the operative group were drawn from those who had persistent instability after 3 months of nonoperative treatment. Both groups were pair-matched and assessed at 10- and 20-year follow-up regarding radiological knee osteoarthritis, functional outcomes (Lysholm, International Knee Documentation Committee [IKDC], Tegner, Knee injury and Osteoarthritis Outcome Score), meniscal status, and knee stability (KT-1000 arthrometer, pivot-shift test, Lachman test, 1-legged hop test).
Results: All 50 patients (100%) were included in the current study for follow-up. After 20 years, we found knee osteoarthritis in 80% of the operative group compared with 68% of the nonoperative group (P =.508). There was no difference between groups regarding functional outcomes and meniscectomy performed. The median IKDC subjective score was 81.6 (interquartile range [IQR], 59.8-89.1) for the operative group and 78.2 (IQR, 61.5-92.0) for the nonoperative group (P =.679). Regarding the IKDC objective score, 21 patients (84%) in the operative group had a normal or near normal score (A and B) compared with 5 patients (20%) in the nonoperative group (P <.001). The pivot-shift test finding was negative in 17 patients (68%) versus 3 patients (13%) for the operative and nonoperative groups, respectively (P <.001), and the Lachman test finding was negative in 12 patients (48%) versus 1 patient (4%), respectively (P =.002).
Conclusion: In this retrospective pair-matched follow-up study, we found that after 20-year follow-up, there was no difference in knee osteoarthritis between operative versus nonoperative treatment when treatment was allocated on the basis of a patient’s response to 3 months of nonoperative treatment. Although knee stability was better in the operative group, it did not result in better subjective and objective functional outcomes.

anterior cruciate ligament, nonoperative, operative, osteoarthritis, rupture, treatment,
American Journal of Sports Medicine
Department of Orthopaedics

van Yperen, D.T, Reijman, M, van Es, E.M, Bierma-Zeinstra, S.M, & Meuffels, D.E. (2018). Twenty-Year Follow-up Study Comparing Operative Versus Nonoperative Treatment of Anterior Cruciate Ligament Ruptures in High-Level Athletes. American Journal of Sports Medicine, 46(5), 1129–1136. doi:10.1177/0363546517751683