Diagnostic value of history-taking and physical examination for assessing meniscal tears of the knee in general practice

Clin J Sport Med. 2008 Jan;18(1):24-30. doi: 10.1097/JSM.0b013e31815887a7.


Objective: To assess the diagnostic value of history-taking and physical examination of meniscal tears in general practice.

Design: An observational study determining diagnostic values (sensitivity, specificity, predictive value, and likelihood ratios).

Setting: General practice.

Patients: Consecutive patients aged 18 to 65 years with a traumatic knee injury who consulted their general practitioner within 5 weeks after trauma.

Assessment: Participating patients filled out a questionnaire (history-taking) followed by a standardized physical examination.

Main outcome: Assessment of meniscal tears was determined by means of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and was performed blinded for the results of physical examination and history-taking.

Results: Of the 134 patients included in this study, 47 had a meniscal tear. From history-taking, the determinants "age over 40 years," "continuation of activity impossible," and "weight-bearing during trauma" indicated an association with a meniscal tear after multivariate logistic regression analysis, whereas from physical examination only "pain at passive flexion" indicated an association. These associated determinants from history-taking showed some diagnostic value; the positive likelihood ratio (LR+) reached up to 2.0 for age over 40 years, whereas the isolated test pain at passive flexion from physical examination has less diagnostic value, with an LR+ of 1.3. Combining determinants from history-taking and physical examination improved the diagnostic value with a maximum LR+ of 5.8; however, this combination only applied to a limited number of patients.

Conclusion: History-taking has some diagnostic value, whereas physical examination did not add any diagnostic value for detecting meniscal tears in general practice.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Family Practice*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Knee Injuries / diagnosis*
  • Male
  • Medical History Taking*
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands
  • Physical Examination*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Tibial Meniscus Injuries*