Rehabilitation Protocols After Isolated Meniscal Repair: A Systematic Review

Am J Sports Med. 2017 Jun;45(7):1687-1697. doi: 10.1177/0363546516667578. Epub 2016 Oct 7.


Background: Current postoperative rehabilitation protocols after isolated meniscal repair vary widely. No consensus exists with regard to the optimal amount of weightbearing, range of motion, or speed at which the patient progresses through the rehabilitation phases. Confounding factors including concomitant ligamentous or cartilaginous injuries have made studying isolated meniscal tears problematic.

Purpose: To systematically review and evaluate the influence of range of motion and weightbearing status during the postoperative rehabilitation period after isolated meniscal repair on clinical efficacy and outcome scores.

Study design: Systematic review.

Methods: A search of PubMed, Scopus, and Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials was conducted. The selection criteria for inclusion were English-language in vivo clinical studies reporting on isolated meniscal repairs utilizing an arthroscopically assisted technique that outlined the postoperative rehabilitation protocol and included at least a 2-year follow-up. Titles, abstracts, and articles were reviewed, and data concerning patient demographics, tear type, repair technique, postoperative protocol details, clinical failures, and outcome scores were extracted from the eligible studies. Rehabilitation protocols were divided into "accelerated," "motion restricted," "weight restricted," and "dual restricted" according to the limitations placed on the treatment groups.

Results: Fifteen studies, containing 17 different treatment groups, met the inclusion criteria. The 2 accelerated groups, 2 motion-restricted groups, 4 weight-restricted groups, and 9 dual-restricted groups showed similar efficacy in terms of clinical success and postoperative outcome scores. Early range of motion and weightbearing status showed no influence over clinical outcomes. Of the 17 groups, 13 reported a greater than 70% clinical success rate with significant variation in the tear type, fixation technique, and postoperative restrictions.

Conclusion: Early range of motion and immediate postoperative weightbearing appear to have no detrimental effect on the chances for clinical success after isolated meniscal repair. Significant variation exists between postoperative protocols, with no current consensus on the ideal parameters for weightbearing and range of motion. Studies reporting outcomes regarding isolated meniscal repair are limited. Future research should include determining the ideal combination of weightbearing and range of motion for specific tear types.

Keywords: meniscal repair; meniscus; rehabilitation.

MeSH terms

  • Arthroscopy / methods
  • Clinical Protocols
  • Humans
  • Menisci, Tibial / physiology
  • Menisci, Tibial / surgery
  • Range of Motion, Articular
  • Systematic Reviews as Topic
  • Tibial Meniscus Injuries / physiopathology
  • Tibial Meniscus Injuries / rehabilitation*
  • Tibial Meniscus Injuries / surgery*
  • Weight-Bearing
  • Wound Healing