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ACL

New 3D MRI Technology Puts Young Athletes Back in Action

Emory MedicalHorizon
New technology has made it possible for surgeons to reconstruct ACL tears in young athletes without disturbing the growth plate.

John Xerogeanes, MD, chief of the Emory Sports Medicine Center and colleagues in the laboratory of Allen R. Tannenbaum, PhD, professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University, have developed 3-D MRI technology that allows surgeons to pre-operatively plan and perform anatomic Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) surgery.

Link to YouTube video

The ACL is one of the four major ligaments in the knee, somewhat like a rubber band, attached at two points to keep the knee stable. In order to replace a damaged ligament, surgeons create a tunnel in the upper and lower knee bones (femur and tibia), slide the new ACL between those two tunnels and attach it both ends.

Traditional treatment for ACL injuries in children has been a combination of rehabilitation, wearing a brace and staying out of athletics until the child stops growing – usually in the mid-teens – and ACL reconstruction surgery can safely be performed.  Surgery has not been an option with children for fear of damage to the growth plate that would cause serious problems later on.

Xerogeanes explains that prior to using the 3-D MRI technology, ACL operations were conducted with extensive use of X-Rays in the operating room, and left too much to chance when working around growth plates.

Preparation with the new 3-D MRI technology allows surgery to be completed in less time than the traditional surgery using X-Rays, and with complete confidence that the growth plates in young patients will not be damaged.

Video Answers to Questions on ACL Tears

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Sports medicine advances reach the masses

Drawing of the knee, courtesy of the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases

An anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, tear is one of the most common sports injuries, especially in sports that require running, jumping or pivoting movements.

Akin to a fibrous, thick rubber band made of collagen, the ACL runs through the center of the knee and connects the femur to the tibia, allowing the knee to bend and flex—but not too far. When it tears, the knee can become destabilized. So, for anyone who wants to continue to play sports, surgery is required.

Once a narrow subspecialty of orthopaedics with a focus on professional athletes, the field of sports medicine has exploded in the last decade. The evolution of ACL surgery is just one of several advances in the treatment of athletes and their injuries that have started to serve not only the pros who make a living from their skills, but also the weekend warrior.

This may include individuals who get hurt in the heat of a pick-up game, the neighborhood league player with tennis elbow, the college runner who pulls a tendon, or the high school football player with a possible concussion.
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