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In The American journal of sports medicine ; h5-index 90.0

BACKGROUND : Surgical and nonoperative management of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries seek to mitigate the risk of knee instability and secondary meniscal injury. However, the associated risk and timing of secondary meniscal tears have not been completely elucidated.

PURPOSE : To compare risk and timing of secondary meniscal injury between patients receiving nonoperative management, delayed ACL reconstruction (ACLR), and early ACLR using a machine learning survival analysis.

STUDY DESIGN : Cohort study; Level of evidence, 3.

METHODS : A geographic database was used to identify and review records of patients with a diagnosis of ACL rupture between 1990 and 2016 with minimum 2-year follow-up. Patients undergoing ACLR were matched 1:1 with nonoperatively treated controls. Rate and time to secondary meniscal tear were compared using random survival forest algorithms; independent models were developed and internally validated for predicting injury-free duration in both cohorts. Performance was measured using out-of-bag c-statistic, calibration, and Brier score. Model interpretability was enhanced using global variable importance and partial dependence curves.

RESULTS : The study included 1369 patients who underwent ACLR and 294 patients who had nonoperative treatment. After matching, no significant differences in rates of secondary meniscal tear were found (P = .09); subgroup analysis revealed the shortest periods of meniscal survival in patients undergoing delayed ACLR. The random survival forest algorithm achieved excellent predictive performance for the ACLR cohort, with an out-of-bag c-statistic of 0.80 and a Brier score of 0.11. Significant variables for risk of meniscal tear for the ACLR cohort included time to return to sports or activity ≤350 days, time to surgery ≥50 days, age at injury ≤40 years, and high-impact or rotational landing sports, whereas those in the nonoperative cohort model included time to RTS ≤200 days, visual analog scale pain score >3 at consultation, hypermobility, and noncontact sports.

CONCLUSION : Delayed ACLR demonstrated the greatest long-term risk of meniscal injury compared with nonoperative treatment or early ACLR. Risk factors for decreased meniscal survival after ACLR included increased time to surgery, shorter time to return to sports or activity, older age at injury, and involvement in high-impact or rotational landing sports. Pending careful external validation, these models may be deployed in the clinical space to provide real-time insights and enhance decision making.

Lu Yining, Jurgensmeier Kevin, Till Sara E, Reinholz Anna, Saris Daniel B F, Camp Christopher L, Krych Aaron J


ACL rupture, machine learning, secondary meniscal tears