MR imaging-based diagnosis and classification of meniscal tears

Radiographics. 2014 Jul-Aug;34(4):981-99. doi: 10.1148/rg.344125202.


Magnetic resonance (MR) imaging is currently the modality of choice for detecting meniscal injuries and planning subsequent treatment. A thorough understanding of the imaging protocols, normal meniscal anatomy, surrounding anatomic structures, and anatomic variants and pitfalls is critical to ensure diagnostic accuracy and prevent unnecessary surgery. High-spatial-resolution imaging of the meniscus can be performed using fast spin-echo and three-dimensional MR imaging sequences. Normal anatomic structures that can mimic a tear include the meniscal ligament, meniscofemoral ligaments, popliteomeniscal fascicles, and meniscomeniscal ligament. Anatomic variants and pitfalls that can mimic a tear include discoid meniscus, meniscal flounce, a meniscal ossicle, and chondrocalcinosis. When a meniscal tear is identified, accurate description and classification of the tear pattern can guide the referring clinician in patient education and surgical planning. For example, longitudinal tears are often amenable to repair, whereas horizontal and radial tears may require partial meniscectomy. Tear patterns include horizontal, longitudinal, radial, root, complex, displaced, and bucket-handle tears. Occasionally, meniscal tears can be difficult to detect at imaging; however, secondary indirect signs, such as a parameniscal cyst, meniscal extrusion, or linear subchondral bone marrow edema, should increase the radiologist's suspicion for an underlying tear. Awareness of common diagnostic errors can ensure accurate diagnosis of meniscal tears. Online supplemental material is available for this article.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Menisci, Tibial / pathology*
  • Tibial Meniscus Injuries*
  • Wounds and Injuries / classification
  • Wounds and Injuries / diagnosis