Arthroscopic Brostrom versus combined repairs of ATFL and CFL: A Biomechanical Comparison of Repair Techniques


      The standard for lateral ligament stabilization is direct repair of the ATFL by open or arthroscopic technique. The implications and necessity of repairing the CFL are not well understood. The purpose of this study was to assess the impact of repairing the ATFL alone compared to repairing both the ATFL and CFL, in a biomechanical cadaver model. We hypothesized that repairing the CFL will substantially augment ankle and subtalar joint stability during weight-bearing ankle inversion compared to ATFL repair alone.


      Ten matched pair fresh frozen human cadaveric ankles were mounted to an Instron, loaded to body weight and inverted to 20° for three cycles; torque and stiffness were recorded. Ankles underwent sectioning of ATFL and CFL and were randomly assigned to ATFL only repair using two arthroscopic Broström all-soft anchors, or combined ATFL and CFL repair. Testing was repeated after repair, followed by load-to-failure (LTF).


      The predominant mode of failure after repair was at the tissue/suture. There was an 11.7% increase in stiffness in combined repairs, and only a 1.6% increase in ATFL-only repairs. CFL failed at lower torque and rotation than the ATFL in combined repairs. There were strong correlations between intact stiffness and stiffness after repair (r=.74) and ATFL torque in LTF testing (r=.77), across both groups.


      We found a greater increase in stiffness following combined ATFL and CFL repair compared to ATFL repair alone. This added stability is due to complimentary contributions of the CFL, not augmented LTF strength of the ATFL. Intact specimen stiffness correlated strongly with stiffness after repair and LTF torque, suggesting that a patient's inherent tissue laxity or inelasticity is likely a meaningful predictor of strength after repair. Restoring the CFL plays a relevant role in lateral ligament repair, however sufficient time for ligament healing should be allowed before inversion stresses are applied.