ACL injury and Osteoarthritis: causes, symptoms, and treatment explained by Dr. Pranjel Pipara best Orthopedic Surgeon in Ahmedabad
Injuries to the anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, are one of the most common forms of a knee injury, especially in athletes or individuals who frequently exercise and play sports. Depending on the patient, ACL injuries may be treated surgically or non-surgically but can contribute to an increased later-life risk of osteoarthritis. New research, published in Scientific Reports in October 2020, indicates that the development of a certain protein in the knee joint after ACL injury may signal an increased risk of potential osteoarthritis, enabling clinicians to better predict and treat this condition at an earlier stage.
What is an ACL injury?
One of the ligaments in the knee is the ACL, which helps pass the joint back and forth. During running or playing a sport, it is most often injured: wounds to the ACL are referred to as ‘sprains’ or ‘tears’. They can range from mild, where the ligament is only stretched, to the extreme, where it is broken in two entirely.
Patients can become conscious of making a popping noise from their knee, unexpectedly giving way, being painful, swelling, and/or not properly moving. Typically, ACL injury may be diagnosed by a doctor upon examination, but imaging may be necessary to determine the seriousness of the injury.
Treatment of ACL injury
ACL injuries tend to require surgery if the patient wants to return to full mobility, as the ligament does not heal itself. This can typically be achieved by arthroscopy (commonly referred to as ‘keyhole’ surgery), which is less invasive compared to open surgery and has a faster recovery time. Surgery may not be needed for certain elderly or rather inactive patients, who do not need to return to great knee mobility, and they may be able to use a brace and/or have physiotherapy instead if the injury is not very significant.
ACL injury and osteoarthritis
Unfortunately, as they grow older, patients who experience an ACL injury often have a higher risk of developing arthritis, and particularly osteoarthritis, in the knee. Osteoarthritis is common in elderly people, also known as ‘wear-and-tear’ arthritis, and occurs when the surface of the joint wears away, causing discomfort, swelling, and mobility loss.
Osteoarthritis can not be healed, but through medications, lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise, and, in some cases, surgery, can be treated and prevented from worsening.
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