Meniscus pathology, osteoarthritis and the treatment controversy

Nat Rev Rheumatol. 2012 May 22;8(7):412-9. doi: 10.1038/nrrheum.2012.69.


The menisci are internal structures that are of central importance for a healthy knee joint; they have a key role in the structural progression of knee osteoarthritis (OA), and the risk of the disease dramatically increases if they are damaged by injury or degenerative processes. Meniscus damage might be considered a signifying feature of incipient OA in middle-aged and elderly people. As approximately every third knee of people in these groups has a damaged meniscus, tears are common incidental findings of knee MRI. However, as most tears do not cause symptoms, careful clinical evaluation is required to determine if a damaged meniscus is likely to directly impact a patient's symptoms. Conservative management of patients with knee pain and a degenerative meniscal tear should be considered as a first-line therapy before surgical treatment is contemplated. Patients with mechanical interference of joint movements, such as painful catching or locking, might need surgical treatment with meniscal repair if possible. In a subset of patients, meniscal resection might relieve pain and other symptoms that potentially originate directly from the torn meniscus. However, the possibility of an increased risk of OA if functional meniscal tissue is removed cannot be overlooked.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arthralgia / physiopathology
  • Arthralgia / therapy
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Knee Injuries / complications
  • Knee Injuries / diagnosis*
  • Knee Injuries / therapy*
  • Knee Joint / diagnostic imaging
  • Knee Joint / physiopathology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Menisci, Tibial / pathology*
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee / diagnosis*
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee / etiology
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee / therapy
  • Pain Management
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Physical Therapy Modalities
  • Radiography
  • Rupture
  • Tibial Meniscus Injuries*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Weight Loss