Children with ACL tears who delay knee surgery are far more likely to suffer additional injuries that could cause irreparable damage, researchers warn.
The study, led by doctors at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, found delaying reconstructive surgery for anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) beyond 12 weeks after the injury can result in lasting damage, in children aged 14 and under.
The study, published in The American Journal of Sports Medicine, noted ACL injuries have increased among children and young adults in recent years, possibly because of increased participation in high-level sports that place a high demand on the knees.
"Treating ACL injuries in these children is controversial, because they are still growing and the surgery has a small risk of causing a growth disturbance," said lead researcher Dr. J. Todd Lawrence. "However, we found that the risk of additional injury outweighs the risk of growth disturbance in most children."
For the study, researchers tracked 70 children with ACL injuries between 1995 and 2005. They found that the 29 patients who had more than 12 weeks after their injuries were four times more likely to have serious irreversible damage -- such as medial meniscus tears that could not be repaired – than those who had procedures performed right away.