High failure rate after medial meniscus bucket handle tears repair in the stable knee

Orthop Traumatol Surg Res. 2024 Jun;110(4):103737. doi: 10.1016/j.otsr.2023.103737. Epub 2023 Oct 28.


Background: It is nowadays recommended to "Save the meniscus". This paradigm is based on the affirmation that an extended meniscectomy exposes to the risk of long-term secondary osteoarthritis and the global failure rate of a longitudinal tear repair remains low, whether it is the medial or lateral meniscus, with or without anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction. However, each kind of lesion has to be studied separate.

Purpose: The study aimed to focus on a homogeneous population of isolated repair of the bucket handle tear (BHT) of the medial meniscus (MM) in patients with stable knees to evaluate failure rate at a minimum of three years of follow-up. The secondary objectives were to evaluate any risk factors or protective factors of failure, clinical outcomes, and secondary amount of meniscectomy in failure cases compared to the amount of meniscus fixed in the first surgery.

Methods: All patients who underwent arthroscopic repair of a BHT of the MM situated in the red-on-red or red-on white (RW) zone on a stable knee between January 2010 and December 2018 were evaluated retrospectively. Failure was defined as a need for reoperation for recurrence of meniscal symptoms (pain, locking) on the medial side with per-operative confirmation of the absence of healing. The following parameters were studied: demographics (age, gender, BMI), time from injury to surgery, clinical scores (Tegner, Lysholm, International Knee Documentation Committee [IKDC]), surgical findings (extent and zone of the tear), surgical management (number and type of suture).

Results: Thirty-nine patients were included. The mean follow-up was 77.2±24.4 [36-141] months. Twenty-seven (69%) failures were recorded. In 56% (15/27) of the reoperations, the meniscectomy amount was smaller than what it would have been done in the first surgery. All clinical scores improved significantly from pre- to post-operatively; all patients met minimal clinically important differences for all the scores. No risk factors were found significant in the multivariate analysis.

Conclusion: Repairing an isolated BHT of the MM is associated with a high failure rate. Despite the failure, we observed that the meniscectomy area was smaller than documented in the primary surgery in most of the cases and repair must still be considered as the first option.

Level of evidence: IV; retrospective cohort series.

Keywords: Bucket handle tear; Failure; Medial meniscus; Meniscal repair; Meniscectomy; Stable knee.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arthroscopy / methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Meniscectomy
  • Menisci, Tibial / surgery
  • Middle Aged
  • Reoperation
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Tibial Meniscus Injuries* / surgery
  • Treatment Failure*
  • Young Adult