Functional outcomes of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury are generally poorer than those of medial collateral ligament (MCL) tears. Following ligament damage, all phases of ligament healing require an adequate blood supply. We hypothesized that the differences in healing properties of the ACL and MCL would reflect their vascular responses to joint injury. This paper examines the long-term changes in blood flow and vascular volume of rabbit knee ligaments after direct injury, and under conditions of chronic joint instability induced by section of the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL).
Standardized injuries were surgically induced in adult rabbit knee ligaments: partial MCL transection, partial ACL transection, or complete PCL transection (joint instability). Sixteen weeks later the blood flow and vascular volume of the ACL and MCL were measured and compared to control and sham-operated animals.
Direct ligament injury induced significant increases in standardized blood flow and vascular volume of both ACL and MCL after 16 weeks; however, the vascular volume of the ACL was not higher than the control levels in the MCL. We conclude that direct injury to both the anterior cruciate and MCLs induces long-term physiological responses.
Joint laxity is a common sequel to PCL injury. Chronic joint laxity failed to induce adaptive vascular responses in the ACL, while the MCL shows significant amplification of blood supply. Although both MCL and ACL showed increased weight after PCL transection, the lack of a long-term vascular response in the ACL may be a major factor in its the diminished healing potential.
© 2002 Orthopaedic Research Society. Published by Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.