Joint Preservation Blog

December 15, 2008

mri knee anterior and posterior ligament tears

MRI knee anterior and posterior ligament tears. The knee has ligaments in the font and back (ACL and PCL) that keep the knee stable in a front-back direction. These ligaments can be seen on MRI and will usually have bright areas in them under certain special MRI sequences if they are partially torn or stretched. These areas are called “high signal intensity” in medical radiology jargon. If the ligament tears are complete (broken in half), then surgery is needed to reconnect those ligaments. However, if the ligaments are only partially torn or stretched, newer techniques to treat these ligaments without surgery are available. Surgery to treat an ACL/PCL partial ligament tear may cause more problems than it’s worth, in that sewing these ligaments may result in ligaments that are too tight. Ligaments that are too tight can rapidly increase the wear and tear forces on the knee. This can lead to further degeneration of the cartilage and arthritis. However, leaving the ligaments stretched out and too loose may result in the same fate, as the extra motion of the knee joint will lead to extra wear and tear as well.

While surgical repair may well lead to more arthritis down the line, non-surgical repair has advanced greatly in the past few years. The ability to inject the patent’s own stem cells into the partially torn ligaments without surgery may be able to heal these tears without over tightening the ligaments. Research in the arena of using adult stem cells (not from embryos, but from the patient) has blossomed. This technique (see the first link in the above paragraph) allows for much less downtime than surgery and also allows the patient to remain active while the ligaments are healing. In addition, it’s believed that this more physiologic repair reduces the risk of over tightening the ligament.

For more information on these ligaments, see below:

The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) are the primary restraints to front and back motion of the tibia on the femur. The femur (thigh bone) sits on top of the tibia (shin bone), and the knee joint allows movement of the mid leg. Without ligaments to stabilize the knee joint, the joint would be unstable and prone to excessive wear and tear and loose much of it’s bio mechanical advantage. The ACL and PCL prevents the tibia from sliding too far in the font-back direction. The ACL and PCL also contribute stability to other movements at the joint including rotation at the knee joint. The other major ligaments of the knee are the medial and lateral collateral ligaments (MCL and LCL, respectively).

What happens when there is an ACL or PCL injury?
When an ACL injury occurs, the knee becomes unstable. The ACL injury is a concern because this instability can make pivoting movements difficult, and it may make the knee more likely to developing arthritis and cartilage injury.

Why are ACL and PCL tears a big problem with daily activities?

When the knee is unstable, patients complain of a feeling that the knee will ‘give out’ from under them. When this “giving way” is because of an ACL injury, the knee joint is sliding around too much. This can be a problem because each occurrence of instability (the ‘giving way’ feeling) can lead to damage to the knee cartilage. Therefore an ACL or PCL injury can make a patient more likely to develop knee arthritis and meniscus tears.

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1 Comment »

  1. […] mri knee anterior and posterior ligament tears « Joint … […]

    Pingback by ACL Reconstruction Surgery | Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Injuries — December 15, 2008 @ 10:10 pm


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