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05.06.2018 | Knee Open Access

Bone bruise in anterior cruciate ligament rupture entails a more severe joint damage affecting joint degenerative progression

Knee Surgery, Sports Traumatology, Arthroscopy
Giuseppe Filardo, Luca Andriolo, Giorgio di Laura Frattura, Francesca Napoli, Stefano Zaffagnini, Christian Candrian



During anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury, the large external forces responsible for ligament rupture cause a violent impact between tibial and femoral articular cartilage, which is transferred to bone resulting in bone bruise detectable at MRI. Several aspects remain controversial and await evidence on how this MRI finding should be managed while addressing the ligament lesion. Thus, the aim of the present review was to document the evidence of all available literature on the role of bone bruise associated with ACL lesions.


A systematic review of the literature was performed on bone bruise associated with ACL injury. The search was conducted in September 2017 on three medical electronic databases: PubMed, Web of Science, and the Cochrane Collaboration. Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-analysis (PRISMA) guidelines were used. Relevant articles were studied to investigate three main aspects: prevalence and progression of bone bruise associated with ACL lesions, its impact on the knee in terms of lesion severity and joint degeneration progression over time and, finally, the influence of bone bruise on patient prognosis in terms of clinical outcome.


The search identified 415 records and, after an initial screening according to the inclusion/exclusion criteria, 83 papers were used for analysis, involving a total of 10,047 patients. Bone bruise has a high prevalence (78% in the most recent papers), with distinct patterns related to the mechanism of injury. This MRI finding is detectable only in a minority of cases the first few months after trauma, but its presence and persistence have been correlated to a more severe joint damage that may affect the degenerative progression of the entire joint, with recent evidence suggesting possible effects on long-term clinical outcome.


This systematic review of the literature documented a growing interest on bone bruise associated with ACL injury, highlighting aspects which could provide to orthopaedic surgeons evidence-based suggestions in terms of clinical relevance when dealing with patients affected by bone bruise following ACL injury. However, prospective long-term studies are needed to better understand the natural history of bone bruise, identifying prognostic factors and targets of specific treatments that should be developed in light of the overall joint derangements accompanying ACL lesions.

Levels of evidence

IV, Systematic review of level I–IV studies.

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