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Meniscal Injury

Meniscal Injury is a topic covered in the 5-Minute Clinical Consult.

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  • The menisci are fibrocartilaginous structures between the femoral condyles and tibial plateaus.
  • Each meniscus has a body, anterior and posterior horn.
  • The menisci help stabilize the knee, lubricate, and distribute forces across the joint.
  • There are acute/traumatic and degenerative meniscal tears.
  • The inner 2/3 of the menisci are avascular and heal poorly after injury.

Geriatric Considerations
Meniscal tears in older patients are typically due to chronic degeneration.

Pediatric Considerations
  • Meniscal injuries are rare in children <10 years old.
  • Meniscal tears in children are often due to a discoid meniscus (anatomic variant with thicker and wider meniscus).
  • MRI is less sensitive and specific for diagnosing meniscal tears in children <12 years of age.


  • More common in the 3rd to 5th decades of life
  • More common in males

Medial meniscus more commonly injured

One of the most common musculoskeletal injuries

Etiology and Pathophysiology

  • Acute/traumatic tears occur due to a twisting motion of the knee with foot planted.
    • More common <40 years old
  • Degenerative tears occur with minimal trauma.
    • More common >40 years old

Presence of a discoid meniscus increases the risk for a meniscal tear. No specific gene locus has been identified.

Risk Factors

  • Acute/traumatic:
    • High degree of physical activity (especially cutting sports)
    • Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) insufficiency
  • Degenerative:
    • Increased age (>60 years), male
    • Obesity

General Prevention

  • Treatment and rehabilitation of previous knee injuries, particularly ACL injuries
  • Strengthening and increased flexibility of quadriceps and hamstring muscles

Commonly Associated Conditions

  • Acute/traumatic:
    • ACL is concomitantly torn in 1/3 of cases.
    • Medial and lateral collateral ligament tears
  • Degenerative:
    • Baker cyst—strong association with medial meniscal tears
    • Osteoarthritis (OA)—degenerative tears can be considered as an early stage of OA in older patients.

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Stephens, Mark B., et al., editors. "Meniscal Injury." 5-Minute Clinical Consult, 27th ed., Wolters Kluwer, 2019. Medicine Central, im.unboundmedicine.com/medicine/view/5-Minute-Clinical-Consult/116901/all/Meniscal_Injury.
Meniscal Injury. In: Stephens MB, Golding J, Baldor RA, et al, eds. 5-Minute Clinical Consult. 27th ed. Wolters Kluwer; 2019. https://im.unboundmedicine.com/medicine/view/5-Minute-Clinical-Consult/116901/all/Meniscal_Injury. Accessed April 26, 2019.
Meniscal Injury. (2019). In Stephens, M. B., Golding, J., Baldor, R. A., & Domino, F. J. (Eds.), 5-Minute Clinical Consult. Available from https://im.unboundmedicine.com/medicine/view/5-Minute-Clinical-Consult/116901/all/Meniscal_Injury
Meniscal Injury [Internet]. In: Stephens MB, Golding J, Baldor RA, Domino FJ, editors. 5-Minute Clinical Consult. Wolters Kluwer; 2019. [cited 2019 April 26]. Available from: https://im.unboundmedicine.com/medicine/view/5-Minute-Clinical-Consult/116901/all/Meniscal_Injury.
* Article titles in AMA citation format should be in sentence-case
TY - ELEC T1 - Meniscal Injury ID - 116901 ED - Stephens,Mark B, ED - Golding,Jeremy, ED - Baldor,Robert A, ED - Domino,Frank J, BT - 5-Minute Clinical Consult, Updating UR - https://im.unboundmedicine.com/medicine/view/5-Minute-Clinical-Consult/116901/all/Meniscal_Injury PB - Wolters Kluwer ET - 27 DB - Medicine Central DP - Unbound Medicine ER -