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Study Reveals Economic Benefit of ACL Surgery

For the first time, researchers have determined the economic benefit of having reconstructive ACL surgery, offering helpful information for the more than 200,000 people — often amateur athletes but including people of any age — who suffer ACL tears in the U.S. every year. The average lifetime benefit of having surgery is $50,000 per patient, and there is an estimated lifetime savings in the U.S. of $10.1 billion annually, according to a study published Oct. 2 in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery.

The figures include direct costs, such as the price of surgery and rehabilitation, and indirect factors, including the ability to work, earnings and disability payments.

“ACL reconstruction is the preferred cost-effective treatment strategy for ACL tears and yields reduced costs compared to rehabilitation alone once indirect cost factors are considered,” said Bernard Bach, MD, one of the study’s authors and head of the division of sports medicine at Rush University Medical Center.

An ACL injury can severely limit a person's level of activity and result in long-term repercussions such as an increased risk of knee osteoarthritis, which can lead to debilitating pain and make walking and standing difficult.

"We know ACL patients who need surgery benefit from it, but until now the true value of ACL reconstruction surgery has been hard to quantify," said study author John R. Tongue, MD, a past president of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. "Considering many ACL patients are young and eager to get back to their active lives, this study provides a key perspective they can look to when evaluating surgery versus rehabilitation."

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