Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

BACKGROUND: Anterior cruciate ligament injury of the knee is common and leads to decreased activity and risk of secondary osteoarthritis of the knee. Management of patients with a non-acute anterior cruciate ligament injury can be non-surgical (rehabilitation) or surgical (reconstruction). However, insufficient evidence exists to guide treatment. OBJECTIVE(S): To determine in patients with non-acute anterior cruciate ligament injury and symptoms of instability whether a strategy of surgical management (reconstruction) without prior rehabilitation was more clinically and cost-effective than non-surgical management (rehabilitation). DESIGN: A pragmatic, multicentre, superiority, randomised controlled trial with two-arm parallel groups and 1:1 allocation. Due to the nature of the interventions, no blinding could be carried out. SETTING: Twenty-nine NHS orthopaedic units in the United Kingdom. PARTICIPANTS: Participants with a symptomatic (instability) non-acute anterior cruciate ligament-injured knee. INTERVENTIONS: Patients in the surgical management arm underwent surgical anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction as soon as possible and without any further rehabilitation. Patients in the rehabilitation arm attended physiotherapy sessions and only were listed for reconstructive surgery on continued instability following rehabilitation. Surgery following initial rehabilitation was an expected outcome for many patients and within protocol. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: The primary outcome was the Knee Injury and Osteoarthritis Outcome Score 4 at 18 months post randomisation. Secondary outcomes included return to sport/activity, intervention-related complications, patient satisfaction, expectations of activity, generic health quality of life, knee-specific quality of life and resource usage. RESULTS: Three hundred and sixteen participants were recruited between February 2017 and April 2020 with 156 randomised to surgical management and 160 to rehabilitation. Forty-one per cent (n = 65) of those allocated to rehabilitation underwent subsequent reconstruction within 18 months with 38% (n = 61) completing rehabilitation and not undergoing surgery. Seventy-two per cent (n = 113) of those allocated to surgery underwent reconstruction within 18 months. Follow-up at the primary outcome time point was 78% (n = 248; surgical, n = 128; rehabilitation, n = 120). Both groups improved over time. Adjusted mean Knee Injury and Osteoarthritis Outcome Score 4 scores at 18 months had increased to 73.0 in the surgical arm and to 64.6 in the rehabilitation arm. The adjusted mean difference was 7.9 (95% confidence interval 2.5 to 13.2; p = 0.005) in favour of surgical management. The per-protocol analyses supported the intention-to-treat results, with all treatment effects favouring surgical management at a level reaching statistical significance. There was a significant difference in Tegner Activity Score at 18 months. Sixty-eight per cent (n = 65) of surgery patients did not reach their expected activity level compared to 73% (n = 63) in the rehabilitation arm. There were no differences between groups in surgical complications (n = 1 surgery, n = 2 rehab) or clinical events (n = 11 surgery, n = 12 rehab). Of surgery patients, 82.9% were satisfied compared to 68.1% of rehabilitation patients. Health economic analysis found that surgical management led to improved health-related quality of life compared to non-surgical management (0.052 quality-adjusted life-years, p = 0.177), but with higher NHS healthcare costs (£1107, p 

Original publication





Health Technol Assess

Publication Date





1 - 97


ANTERIOR CRUCIATE LIGAMENT, ANTERIOR CRUCIATE LIGAMENT INJURIES, ANTERIOR CRUCIATE LIGAMENT RECONSTRUCTION, KNEE INJURIES, ORTHOPAEDICS, QUALITY OF LIFE, RANDOMISED CONTROLLED TRIAL, REHABILITATION, Humans, Male, Female, Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries, Adult, United Kingdom, Cost-Benefit Analysis, Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction, Quality of Life, Quality-Adjusted Life Years, Middle Aged, Young Adult, State Medicine, Joint Instability, Adolescent, Technology Assessment, Biomedical