Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders and BioMed Central.

Open Access Research article

Muscle morphometric effect of anterior cruciate ligament injury measured by computed tomography: aspects on using non-injured leg as control

Sören Strandberg1*, Maria Lindström2, Marie-Louise Wretling1, Peter Aspelin1 and Adel Shalabi3

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Clinical Science, Intervention and Technology at Karolinska Institutet, Division of Medical Imaging and Technology, Stockholm, Sweden and Department of Radiology, Karolinska University Hospital in Huddinge, Stockholm SE-14186, Sweden

2 Department of Clinical Science, Intervention and Technology at Karolinska Institutet, Division of Orthopedics, Stockholm, Sweden

3 Department of Clinical Science, Intervention and Technology at Karolinska Institutet, Division of Medical Imaging and Technology, Stockholm and Centre for Medical Imaging, Akademiska Hospital, Uppsala, Sweden

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 2013, 14:150  doi:10.1186/1471-2474-14-150

Published: 29 April 2013

Abstract

Background

Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears are common, functionally disabling, and predispose to subsequent injuries and early onset of osteoarthritis in the knee. Injuries result in muscular atrophy and impaired muscular activation. To optimize surgical methods and rehabilitation strategies, knowledge of the effects of ACL injuries on muscles size and function is needed. Asymmetry due to limb dominance implies that the effect of ACL-injury might be different in right-sided and left-sided injuries which, should be taken in account when evaluating the effect of an injury. Evaluation of the effects of injuries is usually made with the contralateral leg as control. The aim of this study is to describe the effect of ACL-injuries on thigh muscle size and also to analyze feasibility of using contralateral limb as control.

Methods

Sixty-two patients scheduled to undergo ACL reconstruction were examined with computed tomography (CT). Muscle cross sectional area (CSA) was recorded for quadriceps, hamstrings, gracilis and sartorius 15 cm above the knee joint. Comparisons were made between the injured and non-injured side and between individuals separated by gender and side of injury. Comparisons were also made for patients with or without concomitant meniscal tear, for patients differing in time between injury and examinations and for patients with different level of physical activity after the injury.

Results

Quadriceps CSA was 5% smaller on the injured side. There was an indication that the muscles of the right thigh were generally bigger than those of the left thigh. The difference between the injured and the non-injured side was larger for right-sided injuries than for left-sided. There was also a greater difference in semimembranosus for women than for men. There were no differences related to meniscal injury, time since injury or physical activity.

Conclusion

The use of contralateral leg for evaluating the effect of ACL-injury is often the only available alternative but our study indicates that the difference in CSA between injured and non-injured side does not necessarily reflect the true degree of atrophy, as there are side differences both in muscle size in general and in the effect of an ACL-injury on muscle size.

Keywords:
Anterior cruciate ligament; Muscle size; Atrophy; Dominance; Gender; Meniscal tear; Computed tomography