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British Orthopaedic Research Society (BORS)



Autologous chondrocyte implantation (ACI) is contra-indicated in a joint rendered unstable by a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). We present our experience of ACI repair with ACL reconstruction


Patients underwent arthroscopic examination and cartilage harvesting of the knee. A second operation was undertaken approximately six weeks later to repair the ruptured ACL with hamstring graft or Bone patella-Bone (BPB) and to implant the chondrocytes via formal arthrotomy. Three groups were assessed: Group 1: Simultaneous ACL Reconstruction and ACI; Group 2: Previous ACL Reconstruction with subsequent ACI repair; Group 3: Previously proven partial or complete ACL rupture, deemed stable and not treated with reconstruction with ACI procedure subsequently. Patients then underwent a graduated rehabilitation program and were reviewed using three functional measurements: Bentley functional scale, the modified Cincinnati rating system, and pain measured on a visual analogue scale. All patients also underwent formal clinical examination at review.


Those who underwent simultaneous ACL Reconstruction and ACI had a 47% improvement in Bentley functional scale, 36% improvement in visual analogue score and 38% improvement in the modified Cincinnati rating system. This is in contrast to only a 15% improvement in the modified Cincinnati rating system, 30% improvement in Bentley functional scale, and 32% improvement in visual analogue score in patients who had ACI repair after previous ACL reconstruction. 68% of patients who had the procedures simultaneously rated their outcome as excellent/good and 27% felt it was a failure. In contrast 38% of patients rated their outcome as a failure if they had ACI repair without reconstruction of ACL rupture.


Symptomatic cartilage defects and ACL deficiency may co-exist in many patients and represent a treatment challenge. Our results suggest that a combined ACL and ACI repair is a viable option in this group of patients and should reduce the anaesthetic and operative risks of a two-stage repair. Patients with complete rupture of ACL despite being deemed stable performed poorly at review and our study suggests all complete ruptures regardless of stability should be treated with a reconstruction when performing an autologous chondrocyte implantation.