Clinical outcomes of autograft and allograft anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstructions are mixed, with some reports of excellent to good outcomes and other reports of early graft failure or significant donor site morbidity.
To determine if there is a difference in functional outcomes, failure rates, and stability between autograft and allograft ACL reconstructions.
Medline, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (Evidence Based Medicine Reviews Collection), Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Web of Science, CINAHL, and SPORTDiscus were searched for articles on ACL reconstruction. Abstracts from annual meetings of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine, and Arthroscopy Association of North America were searched for relevant studies.
Inclusion criteria for studies were as follows: primary unilateral ACL injuries, mean patient age less than 41 years, and follow-up for at least 24 months postreconstruction. Exclusion criteria for studies included the following: skeletally immature patients, multiligament injuries, and publication dates before 1990.
Joint stability measures included Lachman test, pivot-shift test, KT-1000 arthrometer assessment, and frequency of graft failures. Functional outcome measures included Tegner activity scores, Cincinnati knee scores, Lysholm scores, and IKDC (International Knee Documentation Committee) total scores.
More than 5000 studies were identified. After full text review of 576 studies, 56 were included, of which only 1 directly compared autograft and allograft reconstruction. Allograft ACL reconstructions were more lax when assessed by the KT-1000 arthrometer. For all other outcome measures, there was no statistically significant difference between autograft and allograft ACL reconstruction. For all outcome measures, there was strong evidence of statistical heterogeneity between studies. The sample size necessary for a randomized clinical trial to detect a difference between autograft and allograft reconstruction varied, depending on the outcome.
With the current literature, only KT-1000 arthrometer assessment demonstrated more laxity with allograft reconstruction. A randomized clinical trial directly comparing allograft to autograft ACL reconstruction is warranted, but a multicenter study would be required to obtain an adequate sample size.