What’s the Difference Between an Autograft and Allograft for ACL Reconstruction Surgery?
An ACL tear is a common knee injury, especially in sports like skiing, basketball, soccer, and football. A full ACL tear cannot heal on its own, and almost always these injuries must be repaired surgically. If you are facing ACL reconstruction surgery, you may be researching your treatment options.
You do have choices in your treatment for an ACL tear, and I want to discuss those options a little more thoroughly.
There are two primary options for reconstruction of the ACL – an autograft or an allograft. What’s the difference between the two?
An autograft uses a tendon (from you) taken from the patellar tendon, hamstring tendon, or quadriceps tendon. In the past, the patellar tendon was considered the “gold standard”, but all three options are effective and provide their own advantages. Using an autograft in reconstruction has several benefits for the patient. There is earlier incorporation into the body with an autograft because the tendon is from your own body. Additionally, there is no potential for outside disease transmission or rejection of the tendon. An autograft is also stronger than an allograft because of the sterilization process for donor tissue. An autograft is typically the recommended graft for patients younger than 40, but exceptions do exist.
An allograft uses a tendon taken from a donor (cadaver) to remake the ligament. Because the tendon comes from an outside source, there is no additional incision for the patient or risk of injury at the harvest site. Typically, using an allograft means an easier and smoother recovery for the patient in the first few weeks, however, total recovery time is the same as using autograft. Using an allograft means shorter surgical time as well. Allografts are a great option for patients over 40 who aren’t returning to high-level sports or for those with multiple knee injuries or revisions needed to repair the knee.
Every patient is unique and every knee is different. Your injury, the degree of knee instability, and your future goals all affect the surgical procedure and recommendation for which graft you choose. There are benefits to each option, and each individual should receive personalized care for their specific situation.
Ronak Patel, MD is a Board-Certified Orthopaedic Surgeon specializing in Sports Medicine injuries for teens and adults in Chicagoland and NW Indiana. Dr. Ronak Patel has performed hundreds of successful ACL reconstructions allowing a quicker rehabilitation, earlier weight-bearing and often doesn’t require bracing after ACL reconstruction. Dr. Patel has devised an efficient rehabilitation program to allow athletes of all levels (high school, collegiate, and professional) get back to competing at the highest level.