BACKGROUND: Loss of proprioceptive function occurs after anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) rupture. Clinical, motor, and proprioceptive function is known to improve after ACL reconstruction but does not return to normal. While histological studies of human ACL allografts have been unable to demonstrate mechanoreceptor reinnervation, animal data suggest that reinnervation may occur when an autograft is used.PURPOSE: To compare the presence or absence of mechanoreceptors between allograft versus autograft after ACL reconstruction in humans.STUDY DESIGN: Cohort study; Level of evidence, 3.METHODS: Ten patients with previous ACL reconstruction presenting for either revision ACL surgery or knee arthroscopy for other reasons were enrolled in a prospective, comparative study. Five patients had a previous autograft ACL and 5 patients had an allograft. Biopsies, either from intact or ruptured grafts, were taken from identical locations as close to the femoral and tibial insertions as possible. Specimens were stained with hematoxylin-eosin (H-E) and monoclonal antibodies against neurofilament protein (NFP), known to be present in mechanoreceptor tissue. Immunohistochemical examination was carried out, and the number of NFP+ neural tissue analogs was counted and compared with that of native ACL tissue.RESULTS: The mean time between original graft and biopsy was 6.9 years (range, 0.5-15 years). Histological examination showed significantly less NFP+ neural analogs in allograft and autograft patients than control tissue (mean number of NFP+ analogs per high-power field, 0.7 ± 0.9 [allograft] and 0.5 ± 0.8 [autograft] vs 4.7 ± 0.9 [controls]; P < .0001). There was no significant difference in NFP analogs between autograft and allograft tissue.CONCLUSION: We found a reduced concentration of NFP+ neural analogs in ACL grafts compared with native ACL tissue. This deficit exists irrespective of whether allograft or autograft is used. These findings may explain the continued proprioceptive deficits seen clinically after ACL reconstruction.
View details for PubMedID 27803939