ACL Growth with Age in Pediatric Patients: An MRI Study

Danielle E. Putur, Sean E. Slaven, Emily L. Niu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Background:There is limited knowledge of morphologic changes of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) during childhood. The purpose of the study is to describe normal ACL growth in pediatric patients.Methods:We performed retrospective review of patients under 19 years of age with at least 2 serial magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) examinations of the same knee without ACL tear. The parameters measured included length of the ACL, width of the ACL in sagittal and coronal planes, physeal status, ACL-tibial inclination angle, Notch Width Index, ACL tibial attachment width and midpoint, and anterior to posterior length and height of the tibial epiphysis. Pearson correlation coefficients were calculated to determine the strength of correlation of each parameter relative to age. Growth curves were calculated for individual parameters, producing a predictive model for growth of the ACL over time.Results:One hundred forty-seven patients (365 MRIs) were included. The average age at initial MRI was 12.2 years (range: 1.2 to 18.4 y). The Pearson correlation coefficient for each parameter was statistically significant relative to age. Younger patients had more oblique, anteriorly attached ACLs. Three distinct phases of growth were observed: patients age 1.5 to 5.75 years average 2.25 mm of growth per year; patients aged 6 to 11.5 average 1.46 mm of growth per year; growth slows at age 11.75, stopping by 18.5 years. The growth model for ACL sagittal width increased 0.45 mm/y from age 1.5 to 14.5 after which it plateaus, whereas coronal width increased 0.22 mm/y from age 1.5 to 18.75.Conclusions:In the pediatric patient, the ACL grows in length and width in a predictable manner until age 18. This model aids clinicians in predicting normal ACL parameters for anatomic reconstruction procedures in the skeletally immature patient.Level of Evidence:Level IV.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)438-447
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Pediatric Orthopaedics
Issue number8
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • ACL
  • MRI study
  • changes in growth over time and patient age
  • pediatric


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