Saphenous nerve injury during hamstring tendons harvest: Does the incision matter? A systematic review

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Purpose: Infrapatellar branch of saphenous nerve injury is a common complication following hamstring graft harvest during anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction. The direction of skin incision performed at proximal tibial metaphysis may affect the rate of iatrogenic nerve damage. Aim of the present systematic review was to evaluate evidence that would substantiate the adoption of one incision over another for hamstring graft harvesting. Methods: The available literature was systematically screened searching studies dealing with iatrogenic injury to the saphenous nerve after anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction using hamstring tendons. A search was performed using the keywords “Saphenous” and “Infrapatellar branch” in combination with “Anterior cruciate ligament”, “arthroscopy” and “hamstrings”, supplying no limits regard the publication year. Coleman methodological score was performed in all the retained articles. Results: Five articles matched the inclusion criteria. There were two randomized controlled trials, one prospective comparative study and two retrospective comparative series. Poor methodological quality was found overall. A vertical incision was found to significantly affect the presence of hypoesthesia and the extent of the area of sensory loss in three articles; no difference was registered in one, and a trend towards a lower rate of iatrogenic nerve damage using an oblique incision was found in the remaining one, without any statistical significance. Conclusion: Although the low methodological quality of the analysed studies does not permit to draw definitive conclusions, the anatomical course of the nerve along with the results obtained in the available studies seems to suggest lower rate of neurological impairment adopting an oblique incision. This kind of incision may therefore be preferred in the routine clinical practice. Level of evidence: Systematic review, Level II.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-6
Number of pages6
JournalKnee Surgery, Sports Traumatology, Arthroscopy
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Jun 23 2016


  • ACL reconstruction
  • Complications
  • Hamstring tendons harvest
  • Saphenous nerve injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Surgery


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