Before surgery, 277 menisci in 144 knees were examined with magnetic resonance (MR) imaging. They were then examined directly with arthroscopy or arthrotomy. Menisci were graded on a scale of 1-3 according to the character of the intrameniscal MR imaging signal. At surgery, 137 of 154 (89%) menisci exhibiting only grade 1 or grade 2 signal were found to be normal. One hundred sixteen of 123 (94%) menisci exhibiting intrameniscal signal communicating with a meniscal articular surface (grade 3 signal) had tears. If only a grade 3 signal is considered consistent with meniscal tears, then MR findings and surgical findings agreed in 91.3% of menisci. MR imaging can separate surgically significant from nonsignificant meniscal lesions and is useful in the noninvasive preoperative screening of suspected meniscal tears.