The meniscus in the cruciate-deficient knee

Clin Sports Med. 1993 Oct;12(4):771-96.


Evidence clearly implicates meniscectomy as a primary factor in the premature development of OA of the knee joint. Although data demonstrate the ability of the menisci to transmit load, they do not contribute to the primary stability of the knee. In the absence of the ACL, the menisci have been shown to enhance the knee's stability in the AP, varus-valgus, and internal-external directions in vitro. Clinically, the argument that the menisci are important secondary stabilizers is less clear. The restraining capacity of the menisci to AP translation is much smaller than the forces the knee is subjected to in vivo during activities of daily living. Additionally, these forces can increase as much as threefold during strenuous athletics. It becomes apparent, on review of the literature, that the menisci clearly are not designed to participate as a significant restraining mechanism for the ACL-deficient knee. The incidence of acute meniscal tear is 52% and increases to 83% in the long run. It is important to realize that although the menisci contribute in part to the stability of the ACL-deficient knee, such a role places them at risk for injury. When meniscal lesions are noted in the ACL-deficient knee, it is important to bear in mind the patient's goals, including his or her willingness to have an ACL reconstructive procedure and desire to return to sports. Also, the tear's configuration and location dictate its the ability to heal. One final area of interest relates to the fate of an ACL reconstruction in the meniscus-deficient knee. Although the meniscus is not a participant in primary stability, the subtle alteration in knee joint kinematics may create unfavorable conditions for the ACL graft. It is possible that the menisci may provide some protection to an ACL-reconstructed knee by restoring normal knee joint kinematics. Such a situation may explain why some ACL reconstructions in the meniscectomized knee fail over time. Prosthetic meniscal substitution or allograft meniscal transplantation are techniques on the horizon and may prove useful in the future when the remaining meniscus cannot be repaired.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament / surgery
  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries*
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Humans
  • Joint Instability / physiopathology*
  • Joint Instability / surgery
  • Knee Injuries / physiopathology*
  • Knee Injuries / surgery
  • Knee Joint / physiopathology*
  • Menisci, Tibial / physiopathology*
  • Menisci, Tibial / surgery
  • Rotation
  • Tibial Meniscus Injuries