Effectiveness of exercise versus arthroscopic partial meniscectomy plus exercise in the management of degenerative meniscal tears at 5-year follow-up: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Arch Orthop Trauma Surg. 2023 May;143(5):2609-2620. doi: 10.1007/s00402-022-04579-y. Epub 2022 Aug 22.


Introduction: There are no meta-analytical data in the long term for comparing surgery and exercise for meniscal tear. The aim of this study is to compare the effectiveness of exercise versus arthroscopic partial meniscectomy (APM) plus exercise for degenerative meniscal tears (DMT) in knee function at 5-year follow-up.

Materials and methods: A systematic search of Medline, EMBASE, Web of Science, SciELO, SPORTDiscus, Scopus, and Cochrane Library was performed. The studies were included if they were randomized controlled trials performed in patients aged ≥ 18 years with DMT, that compared physical therapy to APM at 5-year follow-up, and reported at least one outcome measure of knee function/disability. Risk of bias was analyzed with the Cochrane RoB-2 tool and certainty of evidence with GRADE recommendations. A random effects model meta-analysis was performed.

Results: 3743 articles were identified and 4 met the criteria. Three had low risk of bias and one had some concerns. There were no significant between-group differences, in within-group changes from baseline to 5-year, on the Knee Injury and Osteoarthritis Outcome Score pain (- 2.28; 95% CI - 5.41 to 0.84), symptoms (- 0.24; 95% CI - 4.13 to 3.64), activities of daily living (- 2.16; 95% CI - 6.16 to 1.83) and quality of life (- 3.98; 95% CI - 9.05 to 1.10). There was a significant difference in support of APM plus exercise for sport/recreation (- 9.28; 95% CI - 18.28 to - 0.29). Leave-one-out sensitivity analysis revealed a non-significant difference in sport/recreation (- 5.05; 95% CI - 12.04 to 1.94). There were no differences in other patient-reported outcome measures.

Conclusion: Moderate certainty of evidence suggests that the addition of APM to an exercise program adds no benefits in knee function at 5-year follow-up.

Keywords: Exercise; Meniscectomy; Meniscus; Physical therapy.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Arthroscopy
  • Humans
  • Knee Injuries* / surgery
  • Knee Joint / surgery
  • Meniscectomy
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee* / surgery
  • Quality of Life
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic