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BACKGROUND: Meniscus root tears (MRTs) are defined as radial tears within 1 cm of the meniscus root insertion or an avulsion of the meniscus root itself. They lead to altered joint loading because of the failure to convert axial (compressive) loads into hoop stresses. Untreated MRTs can result in altered joint biomechanics and accelerated articular cartilage degeneration and the development of osteoarthritis (OA), yet optimal management remains unclear. PURPOSE: To review treatment outcomes after acute MRTs by surgical repair, debridement, meniscectomy, or nonoperative treatment. DESIGN: Systematic review; Level of evidence, 4. METHODS: A systematic review of the evidence from human clinical studies was conducted with electronic searches of the PUBMED, Medline, EMBASE, and the Cochrane Library databases. One reviewer extracted the data and 2 reviewers assessed the risk of bias and performed synthesis of the evidence. RESULTS: Eleven studies of low to moderate methodological quality were identified. All treatment options improved functional scores after >12 months. Arthroscopic repair may be associated with better functional outcomes when compared with partial meniscectomy and nonoperative management at 12-month follow-up. Radiographic progression of OA occurred in all treatment groups; there was some evidence that this was delayed after repair when compared with other treatments. Baseline severity of meniscal extrusion, varus malalignment, and pretreatment degeneration were predictors of poor functional outcomes. Age was not found to be an independent predictor of functional outcome. CONCLUSION: The current level 3 and 4 evidence suggests that arthroscopic repair may result in slower progression of radiological deterioration compared with meniscectomy and nonoperative management. The current literature does not support the exclusion of patients from MRT repair on the basis of age. Patients undergoing acute MRT treatments (repair, debridement, or nonoperative) can be expected to experience improvement in functional outcomes after >12 months. The strength of conclusions are limited because of the paucity of high-quality studies on this subject. Further studies, preferably randomized sham controlled trials with function-oriented rehabilitation programs, are needed to compare treatment strategies and stratification of care based on the risk of meniscal extrusion. REGISTRATION: CRD42018085092 (PROSPERO).

Original publication




Journal article


Am J Sports Med

Publication Date



knee, meniscus, meniscus root tear, rehabilitation