Clinical diagnosis of an anterior cruciate ligament rupture: a meta-analysis

Anne Benjaminse, Alli Gokeler, Cees van der Schans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


STUDY DESIGN: Meta-analysis.

OBJECTIVES: To define the accuracy of clinical tests for assessing anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) ruptures.

BACKGROUND: The cruciate ligaments, and especially the ACL, are among the most commonly injured structures of the knee. Given the increasing injury prevalence, there is undoubtedly a growing need for clinical decision making of health care providers. We reviewed the literature to analyze the diagnostic accuracy of the clinical examination for assessing ACL ruptures.

METHODS AND MEASURES: MEDLINE (1966 to April 2005), EMBASE (1989 to April 2005), and CINAHL (1982 to April 2005) searches were performed. Also reference lists of the included studies were reviewed. Studies selected for data extraction were those that addressed the accuracy of at least 1 physical diagnostic test for ACL rupture and compared the performance of the clinical examination of the knee with a reference standard, such as arthroscopy, arthrotomy, or MRI. Searching was limited to English, German, and Dutch languages.

RESULTS: Twenty-eight studies that assessed the accuracy of clinical tests for diagnosing ACL ruptures met the inclusion criteria. Study results were, however, heterogeneous. The Lachman test is the most valid test to determine ACL tears, showing a pooled sensitivity of 85% (95% confidence interval [CI], 83-87) and a pooled specificity of 94% (95% CI, 92-95). The pivot shift test is very specific, namely 98% (95% CI, 96-99), but has a poor sensitivity of 24% (95% CI, 21-27). The anterior drawer test shows good sensitivity and specificity in chronic conditions, respectively 92% (95% CI, 88-95) and 91% (95% CI, 87-94), but not in acute conditions.

CONCLUSION: In case of suspected ACL injury it is recommended to perform the Lachman test. Because the pivot shift test is very specific both in acute as well as in chronic conditions, it is recommended to perform the pivot shift test as well.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)267-288
JournalJournal of orthopaedic & sports physical therapy
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2006


  • anesthesia
  • anterior cruciate ligament
  • diagnostic tests
  • knee joint
  • rupture
  • sensitivity


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