A study presented at the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine’s (AOSSM) Annual Meeting shows that young patients who wait on anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) surgery may be at an increased risk for secondary knee injuries. For the study, researchers analyzed the records of 130 patients between ages 8 and 16 who had an ACL reconstruction, and divided them into three groups based on timing.

A total of 62 patients were treated less than 6 weeks after injury, 37 were treated 6 to 12 weeks after, and 36 were treated more than 3 months after. The surgeries occurred between 2000 and 2012.

Allen F. Anderson, MD, lead author of the study, states, “In reviewing records of young patients who received ACL reconstructions, our data showed higher rates and severity of secondary meniscus injuries when surgery is delayed.”

Anderson adds, “Patients who had surgery 6-12 weeks after ACL injury had 1.45 greater odds of lateral meniscus injury, and those waiting 3+ months increased their risk 2.82 times. The risk for medial meniscal tears was 4.3 times greater when delaying surgery at least 6 weeks.”

A Newswise news report notes that the study adds to existing research noting the risk of secondary meniscal and chondral injuries in pediatric patients. Additional risk factors for secondary injuries included return to sport activities prior to surgery, younger age, and prior episodes of knee instability.

Anderson says, “While parents and other caregivers have obvious reasons for concern over ACL surgery in young patients, it’s important to recognize when it may be beneficial. If surgery now helps eliminate long-term knee problems, it’s certainly a good choice.”

Sources: American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine, Newswise