The reason for graft failure after anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction (ACLR) is multifactorial. Controversies remain regarding the predominant factor and incidence of failure aetiology in the literature. This review aimed to provide a meta-analysis of the literature to evaluate the relative proportion of various failure modes among patients with ACLR failure.
The PubMed, Embase, Cochrane Library, Web of Science, and EBSCO databases were searched for literature on ACLR failure or revision from 1975 to 2021. Data related to causes for ACLR surgical failure were extracted, and a random effects model was used to pool the results, which incorporates potential heterogeneity. Failure modes were compared between different populations, research methods, graft types, femoral portal techniques, and fixation methods by subgroup analysis or linear regression. Funnel plots were used to identify publication bias and small-study effects.
A total of 39 studies were analyzed, including 33 cohort studies and six registry-based studies reporting 6578 failures. The results showed that among patients with ACLR failure or revision, traumatic reinjury was the most common failure mode with a rate of 40% (95% CI: 35-44%), followed by technical error (34%, 95% CI: 28-42%) and biological failure (11%, 95% CI: 7-15%). Femoral tunnel malposition was the most common cause of the technical error (29%, 95% CI: 18-41%), with more than two times higher occurrence than tibial tunnel malposition (11%, 95% CI: 6-16%). Traumatic reinjury was the most common factor for ACLR failure in European populations and in recent studies, while technical errors were more common in Asian populations, earlier studies, and surgery performed using the transtibial (TT) portal technique. Biological factors were more likely to result in ACLR failure in hamstring (HT) autografts compared to bone-patellar tendon-bone (BPTB) autografts.
Trauma is the most important factor leading to surgical failure or revision following ACLR. Technical error is also an important contributing factor, with femoral tunnel malposition being the leading cause of error resulting in failure.

© 2023. The Author(s) under exclusive licence to SICOT aisbl.