Meniscal damage in knees without previous surgery—and not only damage associated with meniscectomy—is a potent risk factor for the development of radiographic osteoarthritis (OA). Meniscal lesions often cause few symptoms, but meniscal damage may present a public health problem in that it is prevalent and has a potentially detrimental role in early OA disease.
Englund and colleagues evaluated men and women aged 50 to 79 years at high risk for knee OA in a prospective case-control study nested within the Multicenter Osteoarthritis Study. Baseline and 30-month assessments included weight-bearing posteroanterior knee radiographs. Case knees (those in which radiographic tibiofemoral OA had developed at 30 months) and control knees were selected for MRI readings.
At baseline, meniscal damage was more common in case knees than in control knees (54% vs 18%). The crude and adjusted odds for the development of radiographic tibiofemoral OA were greater for knees with more severe meniscal damage at baseline. The adjusted model comparing any meniscal damage with no meniscal damage had an odds ratio of 5.7 (95% confidence interval, 3.4 to 9.4).
The authors noted that the study results highlight the need for better understanding, management, and prevention of meniscal damage.