Purpose: The purpose of this study was to compare the clinical and radiographic outcome of arthroscopic partial and total meniscectomy.
Type of study: Retrospective outcome study.
Methods: Thirty-six male patients with stable knees, no previous knee injury, and arthroscopic meniscectomy were matched into 2 groups: partial or total. In addition, a group of individuals with no known history of knee injury was matched to each patient with meniscectomy. All patients were re-examined by a clinical and radiographic examination 14 years after surgery.
Results: At follow-up, radiographic changes, including Fairbank changes and joint space narrowing, were seen in 6 of 18 patients (33%) after partial meniscectomy and in 13 of 18 patients (72%) after total meniscectomy (P <.05). Joint space narrowing >50% of the joint space was seen in 1 patient after partial meniscectomy but was present in 7 patients after total meniscectomy. In the healthy controls, 4 of 36 patients (11%) had radiographic changes but none had joint space narrowing. Fourteen years after surgery almost 70% of patients had a Lysholm score >94 (i.e., normal). Only 5 of 36 patients (14%) in the total meniscectomy group had knee symptoms during activities of daily living. A similar decline in activity levels according to Tegner was seen over time in the control group and in the 2 meniscectomy groups.
Conclusions: The frequency of radiographic changes 14 years after meniscectomy is related to the size of the meniscus removed, but the grades of these changes are low and have little influence on activity and knee function.