Purpose: This study was conducted to determine the importance of age as a limiting factor as well as to assess the role of age in combination with cartilage damage or osteoarthritis as predicting factors for the outcome after arthroscopic partial meniscectomy.
Type of study: Case series.
Methods: We reviewed 97 patients over 70 years of age who underwent an arthroscopic partial meniscectomy between 1992 and 1996. At the time of evaluation, 5 patients had died and 1 patient was unavailable, leaving 91 patients (95 knees) suitable for assessment. There were 56 women and 35 men. The average age at time of surgery was 74 years (range, 70 to 84 years). The mean follow-up period was 4 years (range, 2 to 6 years). Assessment of the cases by 1 investigator included medical records and preoperative radiographs of the knee joint, with the main interest focused on evidence of osteoarthritis using the classification of Kellgren and Lawrence. Evaluation of cartilage damage was performed on surgical videotapes according to Outerbridge. All 91 patients were personally interviewed by telephone. The questionnaire included influence of the operation on knee pain, quality and duration of satisfaction, requirement of further surgery, and whether the patient would undergo the same operation again.
Results: According to the Kellgren and Lawrence classification, 80% of patients had radiographic evidence of osteoarthritis grade 0-2, and 20% had grade 3-4. According to Outerbridge, 43% of the patients had cartilage damage grade 0-2 and 57% had grade 3-4; 81% of the patients with osteoarthritis grade 0-2 and 83% of the patients with cartilage damage grade 0-2 had a satisfactory outcome when followed-up for more than 2 years. Among the patients with osteoarthritis grade 3-4 or cartilage damage grade 3-4, 55% and 69%, respectively, were satisfied when followed-up for more than 2 years; 45% and 37%, respectively, required a further surgery after 1 to 4 years. The grade of osteoarthritis had significant influence on satisfaction (P <.01), on whether the patients would have the operation done again (P =.01), and on whether they required further surgery (P =.04). The severity of cartilage damage only had a significant influence on whether the patients would undergo the operation again (P =.01).
Conclusions: Pre-existing degenerative changes appeared to affect the outcome more than the patient's age. However, arthroscopic partial meniscectomy was followed by satisfactory results in more than two thirds of our cases even if performed in the presence of moderate degenerative changes. But two thirds does not correspond with the good results usually obtained in a younger population. Therefore, the indication for surgery and the expected outcome have to be evaluated carefully in elderly patients.