Ronak M. Patel, MD, Ryan M. Castile, BS, Matthew J. Jenkins, BS, Spencer P. Lake, PhD, and Robert H. Brophy, MD
Investigation performed at Washington University in St Louis, St Louis, Missouri, USA


The variable anatomy and controversy of the anterolateral ligament (ALL) reflect the complex relationship among the anterolateral knee structures.

The purpose was to quantify the microstructural and mechanical properties of the ALL as compared with the anterolateral capsule (ALC) and lateral collateral ligament (LCL). The primary hypotheses were that (1) there is no difference in these properties between the ALL and ALC and (2) the LCL has significantly different properties from the ALL and ALC.

Descriptive laboratory study.

The LCL, ALL, and ALC were harvested from 25 cadaveric knees. Mechanical testing and microstructural analyses were performed using quantitative polarized light imaging. The average degree of linear polarization (AVG DoLP; mean strength of collagen alignment) and standard deviation of the angle of polarization (STD AoP; degree of variation in collagen angle orientation) were calculated.

Linear region moduli were not different between the ALC and ALL (3.75 vs 3.66 MPa, respectively; P > .99). AVG DoLP values were not different between the ALC and ALL in the linear region (0.10 vs 0.10; P > .99). Similarly, STD AoP values were not different between the ALC and ALL (24.2 vs 21.7; P > .99). The LCL had larger modulus, larger AVG DoLP, and smaller STD AoP values than the ALL and ALC. Of 25 knee specimens, 3 were observed to have a distinct ALL, which exhibited larger modulus, larger AVG DoLP, and smaller STD AoP values as compared with nondistinct ALL samples.

There were no differences in the mechanical and microstructural properties between the ALL and ALC. The ALC and ALL exhibited comparably weak and disperse collagen alignment. However, when a distinct ALL was present, the properties were suggestive of a ligamentous structure.

The properties of the ALL are similar to those of a ligament only when a distinct ALL is present, but otherwise, for the majority of specimens, ALL properties are closer to those of the capsule. Variability in the ligamentous structure of the ALL suggests that it may be more important in some patients than others and reconstruction may be considered in selective patients. Further study is needed to better understand its selective role and optimal indications for reconstruction.