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Pediatric ACL Reconstruction and Return to the Operating Room

Revision Is Less Than Half of the Story

DeFrancesco, Christopher J. BS*,†; Storey, Eileen P. BA*; Flynn, John M. MD*; Ganley, Theodore J. MD*

doi: 10.1097/BPO.0000000000001055
Sports Medicine

Background: Although there are several causes of unplanned return to the operating room (RTOR) following pediatric anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction (ACLR), prior outcomes studies focus primarily on the risk of graft failure. We sought to comprehensively describe indications for RTOR in pediatric primary ACLR patients, estimate associated rates of RTOR, and assess the impact of concomitant meniscal procedures on these rates.

Methods: This retrospective cohort study considered patients who underwent primary ACLR at an urban, pediatric tertiary care hospital between 2013 and 2015. Cohorts were defined based on the presence or absence of a concomitant surgical meniscal procedure with the index ACLR. The primary outcome was RTOR for an indication pertaining to ACLR or a potential predilection for knee injury. Cases of RTOR were cataloged and classified according to indication. Survival analyses were performed using the Kaplan-Meier estimation and competing-risks regression. Comparisons of any-cause RTOR rates were done using log-rank tests.

Results: After exclusion criteria were applied, 419 subjects were analyzed. RTOR indications were organized into 5 categories. The overall rate for any RTOR by 3 years after surgery was 16.5%. Graft failure and contralateral ACL tear were the most common indications for RTOR, with predicted rates of 10.3% and 7.1%, respectively. ACL graft failure accounted for less than half of RTOR cases cataloged. Patients who had a concomitant meniscus procedure had lower rates of RTOR.

Conclusions: Approximately 1 in 6 pediatric ACLR patients underwent ≥1 repeat surgery within 3 postoperative years for indications ranging from wound breakdown to contralateral ACL rupture. While previous studies revealed high rates of complication after pediatric ACLR due primarily to graft failure, we found that re-tear is responsible for less than half of the 3-year RTOR risk. As almost half of re-tears in our sample occurred before clearance to return to full activities, we suspect that the high rate of complication is largely attributable to pediatric patients’ high activity levels and difficulties adhering to postoperative restrictions. Early treatment of meniscus pathology may reduce rates of RTOR.

Level of Evidence: Level III—therapeutic.

*Division of Orthopaedics, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

The Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA

None of the authors received financial support for this study.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Reprints: Theodore J. Ganley, MD, Division of Orthopaedics, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, 3401 Civic Center Boulevard, Philadelphia, PA 19104. E-mail:

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