This study analyzed knee synovial fluid after anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear and in osteoarthritis (OA) to test the hypotheses that concentrations of cytokines, chemokines, and growth factors differ (a) by diagnosis and (b) after ACL tear by time from injury and presence/absence of concomitant meniscus tear. Synovial fluid samples were collected from two groups, ACL tears (with or without meniscus tear) (N = 13) and Kellgren–Lawrence grade 3 and 4 OA (N = 16), undergoing clinically indicated aspiration of the knee joint. Multiple cytokines, chemokines, and growth factors were assessed using a multiplexed 45-protein panel. Comparisons were made for the concentrations of all molecules between ACL tear and OA patients, isolated versus combined ACL and meniscus tears, and categorized by time from injury: acute or early subacute (<15 days, N = 8) versus late subacute or chronic (>15 days and <3 months, N = 5). ACL tear patients have higher levels of six molecules (IL-4, IL-5, IL-13, PlGF-1, bNGF, TNF-α) in knee synovial fluid compared to OA patients. Isolated ACL tears express higher levels of IL-4, IL-13 and IFN-γ and lower levels of IL-7 than ACL tears with a concomitant meniscus tear. SDF-1α, PlGF-1, IL-1RA, HGF, bNGF, and BDNF levels are elevated immediately after injury and drop off significantly in the late subacute phase (after 15 days). Synovial fluid from knees with ACL tears have elevated metabolic activity compared to knees with OA. The cytokine profiles after ACL tears are influenced by the time from injury and the presence of meniscus tears. These findings offer valuable insights into the levels of cytokines, chemokines, and growth factors in the knee after ACL injury, information which may have important implications for the diagnosis, prognosis and treatment of this common pathology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1448-1462
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Orthopaedic Research
Issue number7
StateAccepted/In press - 2024


  • anterior cruciate ligament
  • meniscus
  • multiplex immunoassay
  • osteoarthritis
  • time from injury


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