Cellular Augmentation of Anterior Cruciate Ligament Surgery Is Not Currently Evidence Based: A Systematic Review of Clinical Studies

Published:December 15, 2021DOI:


      To perform a systematic review of clinical outcome studies exploring cellular augmentation of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) surgery, including stem cell techniques.


      A systematic search was performed according to the Preferred Reporting Items of Systematic Reviews and Meta-analyses (PRISMA) guidelines using the Cochrane, PubMed, MEDLINE, SPORTDiscus, and CINAHL (Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature) databases from 2000 to 2019. The inclusion criteria were clinical studies that reported on ACL surgery augmented with stem cells or cellular therapy and patient-reported outcome measures or graft healing. Risk of bias was assessed using the Cochrane risk-of-bias tool for randomized clinical trials, and nonrandomized trials were assessed using the Methodological Items for Non-randomized Studies (MINORS) tool. Methodologic assessment was performed according to the Modified Coleman Methodology Score.


      Four studies were found: 2 randomized clinical trials, 1 cohort study with a matched historical control group, and 1 case series. The mean Modified Coleman Methodology Score in these studies was 59, and there was a low risk of bias in 1 study. One study reported outcomes of augmented ACL repair, and 3 studies reported the results of augmented ACL reconstruction. Cellular therapies varied and included concentrated bone marrow aspirate, collagenase/centrifuge processed adipose, and marrow stimulation combined with platelet-rich plasma, as well as cells cultured from allograft bone marrow aspirate. The concentrated bone marrow aspirate and adipose tissue study results did not support their use. The marrow stimulation technique combined with repair led to promising clinical results. The use of allograft cultured cells improved patient-reported outcomes and postoperative radiographic findings.


      Augmentation of ACL surgery with cellular therapy is not supported by clinical evidence at this time.

      Level of Evidence

      Level IV.
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