Meniscus tear patterns in relation to skeletal immaturity: children versus adolescents

Am J Sports Med. 2013 Dec;41(12):2779-83. doi: 10.1177/0363546513504286. Epub 2013 Sep 26.


Background: Meniscus tear patterns in the pediatric population have not been well described.

Purpose: To delineate the pattern of meniscus tears and the likelihood of repair at the time of surgery in both children and adolescents.

Study design: Cross-sectional study; Level of evidence, 3.

Methods: A retrospective review was performed on all patients between the ages of 10 and 19 years who underwent arthroscopic surgery for a meniscus injury at a single institution. Patients with open growth plates were classified as children, while those with closed growth plates were classified as adolescents. Demographic data were documented, including age, sex, body mass index (BMI), mechanism of injury, and time from injury to surgery. Operative reports and intraoperative photographs were used to assess the tear pattern (type, location, zone) as well as all concomitant procedures and injuries. Tears were classified as discoid, vertical, bucket-handle, radial, oblique, horizontal, fray, root detachment, or complex.

Results: Of the 293 patients reviewed, 197 (67%) had lateral meniscus tears, 65 (22%) had medial meniscus tears, and 31 (11%) had tears to both menisci. The cohort was separated into 119 (41%) children (mean age, 13.5 years) and 174 (59%) adolescents (mean age, 16.4 years). Children were more likely to have discoid meniscus tears, lower BMI, and meniscus injuries not associated with ligamentous injuries (P < .05). The rate of associated ligament injuries in children was 28% compared with 51% in adolescents. Overall, the most frequent tear pattern was complex (28%), followed by vertical (16%), discoid (14%), bucket-handle (14%), radial (10%), horizontal (8%), oblique (5%), fray (3%), and root detachment (2%). Complex tears were associated with boys (32% vs 20% in girls; P < .03) and greater mean BMI (27.4 vs 25.1 kg/m(2) in those with noncomplex tears; P < .002), even when taking sex into account. Surgical repair was performed in 47% of all cases (56% in those treated within 3 months of injury vs 42% in those treated after 6 months; P < .03), and there was no difference in the repair rate between the two age groups (49% in children vs 46% in adolescents; P > .05).

Conclusion: Adolescents and children sustain more complex meniscus injuries that are often less repairable than previously reported in the literature. Factors that are associated with greater tear complexity include male sex and obesity. Our findings also suggest that the earlier treatment of meniscus tears may increase the likelihood of repair in younger patients.

Keywords: adolescents; children; knee; meniscus; meniscus tear; pediatric sports medicine; repair.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Arthroscopy / methods
  • Body Mass Index
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Fractures, Cartilage / epidemiology
  • Fractures, Cartilage / pathology*
  • Fractures, Cartilage / surgery
  • Growth
  • Humans
  • Knee Injuries / pathology*
  • Knee Injuries / physiopathology
  • Knee Injuries / surgery
  • Knee Joint / pathology
  • Knee Joint / surgery
  • Ligaments / injuries
  • Male
  • Menisci, Tibial / pathology
  • Menisci, Tibial / surgery
  • Obesity / complications
  • Prevalence
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Rupture / pathology
  • Rupture / surgery
  • Sex Factors
  • Tibial Meniscus Injuries*
  • Wound Healing*