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Reconstruction of the anterior cruciate ligament with a patella-tendon-bone graft may lead to a permanent loss of bone mineral content due to decreased patellar tendon stiffness

Rittweger, Joern and Maffulli, Nicola and Maganaris, Constantinos N. and Narici, Marco V. (2005) Reconstruction of the anterior cruciate ligament with a patella-tendon-bone graft may lead to a permanent loss of bone mineral content due to decreased patellar tendon stiffness. Medical hypotheses, 64 (6). pp. 1166-9. ISSN 0306-9877

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Abstract

Immobilisation induces bone loss. Evidence from studies in animals and healthy humans that were immobilised for a limited time indicates that, in general, bone mass may be restored even in adults. Following conservative management of partial tears of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), bone loss is often negligible (2-3%). After surgical reconstruction, however, there is greater bone loss (15-20%), with little or no recovery. Bones adapt to the stresses they experience. Also, the largest forces in the musculoskeletal system arise from muscle pull. Tendons transmit these forces. Many surgical techniques for ACL reconstruction use autologous tendon grafts. We hypothesise that tissue harvesting causes weakening of the formerly intact tendon, which, in turn, leads to reduced muscle pull and subsequent bone loss in those parts of the bone that are loaded by the tendon. If our hypothesis holds true, it may change patients' and surgeons' choice of management. Clinical follow-up should assess the functional result with greater scrutiny, possibly including the assessment of bone mineral content. This may be particularly important since there is accumulating evidence that a decrease in bone mineral density (BMD) preceedes, and hence may be a cause of, osteoarthritis.

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