Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research®

, Volume 471, Issue 1, pp 181–188

The ACL in the Arthritic Knee: How Often Is It Present and Can Preoperative Tests Predict Its Presence?

  • Aaron J. Johnson
  • Stephen M. Howell
  • Christopher R. Costa
  • Michael A. Mont
Symposium: Papers Presented at the Annual Meetings of the Knee Society

DOI: 10.1007/s11999-012-2505-2

Cite this article as:
Johnson, A.J., Howell, S.M., Costa, C.R. et al. Clin Orthop Relat Res (2013) 471: 181. doi:10.1007/s11999-012-2505-2



TKA with retention of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) may improve kinematics and function. However, conflicting reports exist concerning the prevalence of intact ACLs at the time of TKA.


Therefore, we asked: (1) what was the ACL status at TKA; (2) what was the sensitivity and specificity of the Lachman test; (3) did MRI ACL integrity correlate with intraoperative observation; (4) did MRI tibial wear patterns correlate with ACL integrity; and (5) did ACL status depend on age or sex?


We evaluated 200 patients for ACL integrity at the time of TKA. All patients underwent a Lachman test under anesthesia. Intraoperatively, the ACL was characterized as intact, frayed, disrupted, or absent. In 100 patients, MRIs were performed, from which the ACL was graded as intact, indeterminate, or disrupted, and the AP location of tibial wear was categorized.


The ACL was intact in 155 patients (78%). The Lachman test alone had poor diagnostic ability. The MRI predicted a tear, but we observed two ACLs with indeterminate status that were disrupted. All knees with anterior wear on the medial tibial condyle had an intact ACL (n = 45), and all knees with posterior wear on the medial tibial condyle had a disrupted ACL (n = 8).


Although the Lachman test alone had poor sensitivity, when combined with MRI they together provide a sensitivity of 93.3% and specificity of 99%, which we believe makes these reasonable tests for assessing ACL status in the arthritic knee.

Copyright information

© The Association of Bone and Joint Surgeons® 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Aaron J. Johnson
    • 1
  • Stephen M. Howell
    • 2
  • Christopher R. Costa
    • 1
  • Michael A. Mont
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Center for Joint Preservation and Reconstruction, Rubin Institute for Advanced OrthopedicsSinai Hospital of BaltimoreBaltimoreUSA
  2. 2.Department of Mechanical and Aerospace EngineeringUniversity of California at DavisSacramentoUSA
  3. 3.Center for Joint Preservation and Replacement, The Rubin Institute for Advanced OrthopedicsSinai Hospital of BaltimoreBaltimoreUSA