The Fate of Meniscal Tears After Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction

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Abstract

Objective

To investigate the incidence of meniscal pathology and subsequent treatment at an index arthroscopically assisted reconstruction of acute ACL tears (<3 weeks after injury) and to determine the outcome of meniscal pathology.

Design

Cohort study with average postoperative follow-up of 40 months (range, 24–76 months).

Setting

University-based sports medicine center.

Patients

Series of 162 patients admitted between January 1989 and July 1993. Follow-up was obtained for 105 patients.

Main Outcome Measures

Initial presence, location, and treatment of meniscal tears. Subsequent surgery performed and further investigation or surgery being planned.

Results

Approximately 40% of patients had meniscal pathology at the index procedure. Most tears were in the lateral meniscus (34 of 45). All posterolateral tears and most other small tears were left untreated (25 of 45). Partial meniscectomies were performed on 17 large, complex, or radial tears that were not amenable to meniscal resuturing. Three meniscal repairs were performed on large, unstable tears.

Results

Most patients achieved good functional results. Of the five patients who required late meniscal surgery, three had normal menisci at the index procedure. The other two were asymptomatic until experiencing a reinjury. Despite ACL reconstruction in the acute phase, only two patients required treatment for postoperative arthrofibrosis. Three patients required revision ACL reconstruction after return to full activities and experiencing reinjuries.

Conclusions

Stable tears of both lateral and medial menisci remain asymptomatic at 2 to 6 years' follow-up if treated conservatively. Those requiring further surgery had de novo tears or tears that were asymptomatic before reinjury. Although repair may be of benefit for large flap or bucket-handle tears, it does not appear necessary for most tears and may increase the incidence of postoperative stiffness.

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