Knee Surgery in Kids May Cause Arthritis Later

Young patients who undergo knee surgery may experience early arthritis in the knee, according to a study presented at a recent meeting of the American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine in New Orleans.

The study followed 32 children who underwent ACL reconstruction (knee surgery to repair the anterior cruciate ligament) between age 12 and 16. Researchers followed the subjects–11 boys and 21 girls–with an exam and X-ray for 10 to 20 years. They found that the reconstructed knee had more arthritic changes (65 percent) than the uninjured knee (14 percent).

Though the new report concerned a small group, it is one of the first studies to follow the long-term results in these young patients. Despite observations of an increased risk of osteoarthritis, the link to ACL reconstruction was previously unproven.

Often, Young Patients Don’t Need Knee Surgery

Since more children and teens are playing high-demand sports—particularly soccer, basketball and football– ACL injuries have become more common in young patients. Treatment usually means applying a brace and a regimen of muscle-strengthening exercises rather than knee surgery, due to concerns about injury to open growth plates. However, this treatment can be unsuccessful when patients want to resume their favorite sports or recreational activities. For such patients, ACL reconstruction is recommended to stabilize the knee and prevent further injury in young athletes.

Due to young patients’ special considerations, seek an orthopedic surgeon with experience treating knee injuries for children and adolescents with an ACL tear. The pediatric orthopedic specialists of the North Shore-LIJ Orthopaedic Institute focus solely on children and teens. They tailor treatment to accommodate how young people’s bodies respond differently than adults’.

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