The accuracy of physical diagnostic tests for assessing meniscal lesions of the knee: a meta-analysis

J Fam Pract. 2001 Nov;50(11):938-44.


Objective: Our systematic review summarizes the evidence about the accuracy of those tests.

Search strategy: We performed a literature search of MEDLINE (1966-1999) and EMBASE (1988-1999) with additional reference tracking.

Selection criteria: Articles written in English, French, German, or Dutch, that addressed the accuracy of at least one physical diagnostic test for meniscus injury with arthrotomy, arthroscopy, or magnetic resonance imaging as the gold standard were included. We excluded studies if no reference group or only test-positives had been included, if the study pertained to cadavers only, or if only physical examination under anesthesia was considered.

Data collection/analysis: Two reviewers independently selected studies, assessed the methodologic quality, and abstracted data using a standardized protocol. We calculated sensitivity, specificity, and likelihood ratios for each test, and summary estimates when appropriate and possible.

Main results: Of 402 identified studies, 13 met the inclusion criteria. The results of the index and reference tests were assessed independently (blindly) of each other in only 2 studies, and in all studies verification bias seemed to be present. The study results were highly heterogeneous The summary receiver operating characteristic curves of the assessment of joint effusion, the McMurray test and joint line tenderness indicated little discriminative power for these tests. Only the predictive value of a positive McMurray test was favorable.

Conclusions: The methodologic quality of studies addressing the diagnostic accuracy of meniscal tests was poor, and the results were highly heterogeneous. The poor characteristics indicate that these tests are of little value for clinical practice.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Arthroscopy / standards
  • Bias
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Discriminant Analysis
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Exudates and Transudates
  • Humans
  • Likelihood Functions
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / standards
  • Pain Measurement / methods
  • Pain Measurement / standards
  • Physical Examination / methods
  • Physical Examination / standards*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Prevalence
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Research Design / standards
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Tibial Meniscus Injuries*