Background: People who have had anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction (ACLR) are at a high risk of developing tibiofemoral joint (TFJ) osteoarthritis (OA), with concomitant meniscal injury elevating this risk. This study aimed to investigate OA-related morphological change over 2 years in the TFJ among individuals who have undergone ACLR with or without concomitant meniscal pathology and in healthy controls. A secondary aim was to examine associations of baseline TFJ cartilage defects and bone marrow lesions (BML) scores with tibial cartilage volume change in ACLR groups. Methods: Fifty seven ACLR participants aged 18-40 years (32 isolated ACLR, 25 combined meniscal pathology) underwent knee magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) 2.5 and 4.5 years post-surgery. Nine healthy controls underwent knee MRI at the ~ 2-year intervals. Tibial cartilage volume, TFJ cartilage defects and BMLs were assessed from MRI. Results: For both ACLR groups, medial and lateral tibial cartilage volume increased over 2 years (P < 0.05). Isolated ACLR group had greater annual percentage increase in lateral tibial cartilage volume compared with controls and with the combined group (P = 0.03). Cartilage defects remained unchanged across groups. Both ACLR groups showed more lateral tibia BML regression compared with controls (P = 0.04). Baseline cartilage defects score was positively associated with cartilage volume increase at lateral tibia (P = 0.002) while baseline BMLs score was inversely related to medial tibia cartilage volume increase (P = 0.001) in the pooled ACLR group. Conclusions: Tibial cartilage hypertrophy was apparent in ACLR knees from 2.5 to 4.5 years post-surgery and was partly dependent upon meniscal status together with the nature and location of the underlying pathology at baseline. Magnitude and direction of change in joint pathologies (i.e., cartilage defects, BMLs) were less predictable and either remained stable or improved over follow-up.
- Anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction; post-traumatic osteoarthritis; magnetic resonance imaging
- Bone marrow lesions
- Cartilage defect
- Cartilage volume