Team of Surgeons

It’s the sort of ‘belt and braces’ treatment that can prove particularly valuable for patients planning a return to sports with a high risk of retearing the ACL. But does anterolateral ligament reconstruction lead to greater risk? Jim Newman reviews the evidence.

Not so long ago, tearing the ACL was often a ‘career ender’ for high level athletes. It’s still a major injury, but we now know that it’s much more of a spectrum injury. You can partially tear your ACL. You could have a full tear. And you could have a full tear of the ACL and the anterolateral ligament (ALL). This latter injury is relatively newly understood. The notion of the ALL has existed since 1879, but it was only formally identified in 2013, and it’s changed our understanding of ACL injuries.

The ALL is essentially a thickening of the tissue at the side of the knee. It acts as a sort of secondary stabiliser. A solution for an ACL tear may be a reconstruction. But for some injuries that have left the knee in a particularly unstable condition, knee surgeons might also look to augment the lateral ligament.

Yes, it’s a little bit belt and braces. But the patients who have combined ACL and ALL reconstruction will be returning to high level, high impact sport (football, netball, rugby) with a high risk of retearing the ACL. Augmenting the ALL helps guard against reinjury.

> Discover more about Anterior Cruciate Ligaments
> Discover more about knee physiotherapy & rehabilitation


Assessing the risk

There has, however, always been a slight concern that combining ACL and ALL reconstruction could lead to an increase in adverse outcomes (compared with reconstructing the ACL alone). There is, for example, a theoretical risk that the combined procedure could ‘tighten up’ the joint too much, so that it increases the risk of wear on the lateral side of the knee that could lead to early arthritis.

To assess the risk of adverse events, world-renowned orthopaedic surgeon Bertrand Sonnery-Cottet and others launched a study. It was a good study – a randomised trial comparing outcomes from ACL reconstruction alone with combined ACL and ALL reconstruction, with a minimum one year follow up.

The study found no significant difference between the groups in terms of risk. Having the ALL augmentation does not mean you are more likely to experience complications. That’s great news for athletes and anyone else who needs a reliably stable knee post-ACL reconstruction.

You can read the abstract here: Combined ACL and Anterolateral Reconstruction Is Not Associated With a Higher Risk of Adverse Outcomes: Preliminary Results From the SANTI Randomized Controlled Trial.

If your knee feels unstable – as though it might give way – the problem could be your ACL. Contact us or phone us on 03453 052 579.

> Find out more about Jim Newman
> Discover more about ACL Reconstruction
> Discover more about Anterior Cruciate Ligaments

James Newman

James Newman

Private appointments weekly at Spire Methley Park Hospital

Private Secretary

Sera Robertson
Spire Methley Park
01977 664 230

Self Pay: 01977 664 245
Insured: 01977 664 234

Email James

Watch the Is My Knee Injury Serious video

Yorkshire Knee Clinic Videos

It’s much easier to understand what’s really happening inside the knee when you can see it for yourself

We treat ACL injuries

ACL Injuries

Feel as though your knee may give way? It could be an ACL injury

Internet Explorer is no longer supported.