Shear wave elastography of the healing human patellar tendon following ACL reconstruction.

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PURPOSE: Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) ruptures are common and are frequently reconstructed using a patellar tendon (PT) autograft. Unfortunately, the time course of PT healing after ACL reconstruction is not particularly well understood. Thus, the primary objective of this study was to use shear wave elastography (SWE) to evaluate the extent to which shear wave speed (SWS) is associated with time after ACL reconstruction.

METHODS: Longitudinal SWE images were acquired from lateral, central, and medial regions of the PT from two groups: 30 patients who had undergone ACL reconstruction with a PT autograft within the preceding 40 months, and 30 age-matched asymptomatic control subjects. SWE images were acquired at 20° and 90° of passive flexion from both knees. In each subject group, statistical analyses assessed changes in mean SWS with time post-surgery, as well as differences in mean SWS between PT regions and limbs.

RESULTS: In the ACL reconstruction patients, mean SWS increased with time post-surgery in the lateral region of the involved knee (p = 0.025) and decreased with time post-surgery in the central region of the contralateral knee (p = 0.022).

CONCLUSION: The findings suggest that there is an association between the mechanical properties of the PT and time post-surgery in both the involved and contralateral limbs after ACL reconstruction. These changes are likely due to maturation of the donor site tissue and changes in gait/loading patterns following ACL rupture and reconstruction.

LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: Level II - Prospective Cohort.

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ePub ahead of print