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Systematic Review

Prevalence of post-traumatic osteoarthritis after anterior cruciate ligament injury remains high despite advances in surgical techniques

a systematic review and meta-regression analysis

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The aim of this study was to report the pooled prevalence of post-traumatic osteoarthritis (PTOA) and examine whether the risk of developing PTOA after anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury has decreased in recent decades.


The PubMed and Web of Science databases were searched from 1 January 1980 to 11 May 2022. Patient series, observational studies, and clinical trials having reported the prevalence of radiologically confirmed PTOA after ACL injury, with at least a ten-year follow-up, were included. All studies were analyzed simultaneously, and separate analyses of the operative and nonoperative knees were performed. The prevalence of PTOA was calculated separately for each study, and pooled prevalence was reported with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) using either a fixed or random effects model. To examine the effect of the year of injury on the prevalence, a logit transformed meta-regression analysis was used with a maximum-likelihood estimator. Results from meta-regression analyses were reported with the unstandardized coefficient (β).


The pooled prevalence of PTOA was 37.9% (95% CI 32.1 to 44) for operatively treated ACL injuries with a median follow-up of 14.6 years (interquartile range (IQR) 10.6 to 16.7). For nonoperatively treated ACL injuries, the prevalence was 40.5% (95% CI 28.9 to 53.3), with a median of follow-up of 15 years (IQR 11.7 to 20.0). The association between the year of operation and the prevalence of PTOA was weak and imprecise and not related to the choice of treatment (operative β -0.038 (95% CI -0.076 to 0.000) and nonoperative β -0.011 (95% CI -0.101 to 0.079)).


The initial injury, irrespective of management, has, by the balance of probability, resulted in PTOA within 20 years. In addition, the prevalence of PTOA has only slightly decreased during past decades. Therefore, further research is warranted to develop strategies to prevent the development of PTOA after ACL injuries.

Cite this article: Bone Joint J 2023;105-B(11):1140–1148.

Correspondence should be sent to Rasmus Liukkonen. E-mail:

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