Do physical diagnostic tests accurately detect meniscal tears?

Knee Surg Sports Traumatol Arthrosc. 2009 Jul;17(7):806-11. doi: 10.1007/s00167-009-0803-3. Epub 2009 Apr 28.


Numerous physical tests have been described but their diagnostic accuracy is often questioned. Karachalios et al. described the new 'Thessaly test' and concluded that it could be safely used as a first line screening test for the selection of patients who need arthroscopic meniscal surgery. Our objective was to study the role of physical diagnostic tests in screening for meniscal tears and to validate the diagnostic accuracy of the Thessaly test. We examined 109 patients (80 male, 29 female; average age: 39 years; range: 16-56) who were presented with a history suggestive of a meniscal tear. Joint line tenderness, McMurray's test, and the Thessaly test were assessed by an independent investigator blinded to any imaging data in all patients. MRI and subsequent arthroscopy results were then collated. Our study showed a much lower diagnostic accuracy for the Thessaly test (61% for medial meniscus and 80% for lateral meniscus). It is comparable to McMurray's test (57% for medial meniscus and 77% for lateral meniscus). The Joint line tenderness test has a far superior diagnostic accuracy (81% for medial meniscus and 90% for lateral meniscus). However, combining the joint line tenderness test with McMurray's test or the joint line tenderness test with Thessaly test further increased the accuracy of physical diagnosis of meniscal tears. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) detected 96% of meniscal tears. Physical tests may not always be diagnostic of meniscal tears. MRI and arthroscopy may be essential in dubious clinical presentations and especially where more than one pathology is suspected. Our study showed that the Thessaly test in isolation was not useful for the detection of meniscal tears but it helps to increase diagnostic certainty when combined with other standard tests.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Arthroscopy
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Physical Examination / methods*
  • Rupture / diagnosis
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Tibial Meniscus Injuries*
  • Young Adult