Objective: A meniscal radial tear is a vertical tear that involves the inner meniscal margin. The tear is most frequent in the middle third of the lateral meniscus and may extend outward in any direction. We report (1) the arthroscopic incidence of radial tears, (2) MR signs that aid in the detection of radial tears and (3) our prospective accuracy in detection of radial tears.
Design and patients: Three musculoskeletal radiologists prospectively read 200 consecutive MR examinations of the knee that went on to arthroscopy by one orthopedic surgeon. MR images were assessed for location and MR characteristics of radial tears. MR criteria used for diagnosis of a radial tear were those outlined by Tuckman et al.: truncation, abnormal morphology and/or lack of continuity or absence of the meniscus on one or more MR images. An additional criterion used was abnormal increased signal in that area on fat-saturated proton density or T2-weighted coronal and sagittal images. Prospective MR readings were correlated with the arthroscopic findings.
Results: Of the 200 consecutive knee arthroscopies, 28 patients had radial tears reported arthroscopically (14% incidence). MR readings prospectively demonstrated 19 of the 28 radial tears (68% sensitivity) when the criteria for diagnosis of a radial tear were truncation or abnormal morphology of the meniscus. With the use of the additional criterion of increased signal in the area of abnormal morphology on fat-saturated T2-weighted or proton density weighted sequences, the prospective sensitivity was 25 of 28 radial tears (89% sensitivity). There were no radial tears described in MR reports that were not demonstrated on arthroscopy (i.e., there were no false positive MR readings of radial tears in these 200 patients).
Conclusions: Radial tears are commonly seen at arthroscopy. There was a 14% incidence in this series of 200 patients who underwent arthroscopy. Prospective detection of radial tears was 68% as compared with arthroscopy when the criteria as outlined by Tuckman et al. were used alone. With the use of the additional criterion of increased signal in the area of abnormal morphology on fat-saturated T2-weighted and proton density weighted sequences, the prospective sensitivity for radial tear detection as compared with arthroscopy was 89% in our series. Fat-saturated proton density and T2-weighted images greatly improve the detection of radial tears as signal intensity changes in radial tears as well as morphologic changes can be utilized for the detection of subtle tears.