Dysregulated Inflammatory Response Related to Cartilage Degradation after ACL Injury

Cale A. Jacobs, Emily R. Hunt, Caitlin E.W. Conley, Darren L. Johnson, Austin V. Stone, Janet L. Huebner, Virginia B. Kraus, Christian Lattermann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Purpose Elevated synovial fluid (SF) concentrations of proinflammatory cytokines, degradative enzymes, and cartilage breakdown markers at the time of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction are associated with worse postoperative patient-reported outcomes and cartilage quality. However, it remains unclear if this is due to a more robust or dysregulated inflammatory response or is a function of a more severe injury. The objective of this study was to evaluate the association of the molecular composition of the SF, patient demographics, and injury characteristics to cartilage degradation after acute ACL injury. Methods We performed a cluster analysis of SF concentrations of proinflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokines, and biomarkers of cartilage degradation, bony remodeling, and hemarthrosis. We evaluated the association of biomarker clusters with patient demographics, days between injury, Visual Analogue Scale pain, SF aspirate volumes, and bone bruise volumes measured on magnetic resonance imaging. Results Two clusters were identified from the 35 patients included in this analysis, dysregulated inflammation and low inflammation. The dysregulated inflammation cluster consisted of 10 patients and demonstrated significantly greater concentrations of biomarkers of cartilage degradation (P < 0.05) as well as a lower ratio of anti-inflammatory to proinflammatory cytokines (P = 0.053) when compared with the low inflammation cluster. Patient demographics, bone bruise volumes, SF aspirate volumes, pain, and concomitant injuries did not differ between clusters. Conclusions A subset of patients exhibited dysregulation of the inflammatory response after acute ACL injury which may increase the risk of posttraumatic osteoarthritis. This response does not appear to be a function of injury severity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)535-541
Number of pages7
JournalMedicine and Science in Sports and Exercise
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.


  • Biomarker
  • Cartilage
  • Cytokine
  • Inflammation
  • Knee

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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