After an Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) injury, the question most patients have is, “Will I need surgery?” For children 14 and younger, this is a tricky subject.
Previously, many orthopedic surgeons felt it was better to wait a few years so that the child’s bones had more time to grow. But at the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine’s recent annual meeting in Keystone, CO, researchers indicated that it was actually better to operate quickly, even on younger patients. Those who waited were 11 times more likely to sustain a related injury.
Lyle Micheli, MD, director of Division of Sports Medicine at Children’s Hospital Boston, is glad to hear that word is getting out. According to Micheli, the risks of delaying surgery outweigh the benefits. “Waiting often doesn’t work,” he says. “A patient will continue to have problems until the cartilage tears.”
For years, Micheli and other orthopedic surgeons at the hospital have been performing ACL surgery on young patients. In fact, in 1976, Micheli performed surgery on a 3-year-old who had been born without an ACL. The boy went on to play lacrosse at Dartmouth.
Micheli suggests that, if a patient were to wait for surgery, it should be over the course of a few months rather than years.
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