Multiple-ligament knee injuries resulting from traumatic knee dislocations -- such as high impact car accidents or certain sports are uncommon, and the optimal timing of surgical repair or reconstruction has not been definitively established.
According to a new study published in the December 2009 issue of The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery (JBJS), patients who undergo surgery more than three weeks after a multiple ligament knee injury (called chronic intervention treatment) may have comparable outcomes to those who undergo surgery within three weeks of injury (called acute intervention treatment) with regard to knee stability. Additionally, researchers found that early mobility is associated with better outcomes than immobilization in those patients who are treated within that three week time period.
"After a review of the available literature, we found that chronic intervention provides results that are at least as good as acute intervention, despite some recent studies showing that acute intervention may be better," said lead author of the study William R. Mook, MD, who conducted the study with colleagues from the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.
Dr. Mook and his colleagues surveyed 24 retrospective studies that included 396 knees treated surgically for the most severe multiple-ligament knee injuries. Patients were managed either acutely, chronically, or with a combination of both interventions, which is called staged treatment. The researchers also studied whether the patient's leg should or should not be mobile or immobilized after surgery.
The study found that:
"The reasons for this are not clear. The patient population is heterogeneous, and surgery can be delayed for a variety of reasons. It is difficult to tell which procedures were delayed intentionally and which were delayed due to other medical reasons occurring as a result of their initial injury," Dr. Mook said.
This literature review suggests the following:
Previous studies have indicated that early treatment provides better outcomes, but that may not be the case. "Although recent evidence suggests that acute intervention is superior to chronic interventions in all outcomes, we found that chronic intervention may provide knees with equal stability as those managed acutely," Dr. Mook concluded.
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