Arthroscopic Partial Meniscectomy Combined With Medical Exercise Therapy Versus Isolated Medical Exercise Therapy for Degenerative Meniscal Tear: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials

Background: Degenerative meniscal tear is a chronic disorder which presents with knee pain, swelling and loss of motion. It is currently unknown whether arthroscopic partial meniscectomy combined with medical exercise therapy is superior to isolated medical exercise therapy for degenerative meniscal tear.

Objective: To determine if medical exercise therapy alone is as effective as arthroscopic partial meniscectomy combined with medical exercise therapy in treating degenerative meniscal tear.

Method: Electronic searches were performed using MEDLINE, EMBASE, and the Cochrane Library Databases for all randomized studies. Two reviewers independently completed the literature screening, data extraction, and risk evaluation of bias. The outcome measures were visual analogue scale (VAS), the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index (WOMAC), range of motion, the Lysholm Knee Scoring Scale (LKSS), Knee injury and Osteoarthritis Outcome Score (KOOS) and postoperative complications. STATA 13.0 software was applied for meta-analysis.

Result: Six randomized controlled trials (RCTs) were conducted, with 900 patients included. The present study revealed that there were significant differences between the two groups regarding the VAS at two months, as well as, WOMAC and range of motion. No significant differences were found in terms of LKSS, KOOS or postoperative complications.

Limitations: (1) Only 6 RCTs were included in our meta-analysis and the sample sizes were small; (2) The follow-up period was too short in some included studies. Long-term follow-up studies should be conducted in the future; (3) Heterogeneity among the included studies was unavoidable due to different grade of degenerative meniscal tear and program of exercise. Heterogeneity was also caused by a variety of other factors. (4) Publication bias that came from the process of literature searching was unavoidable and was hard to overcome. (5) There are many other words which could yielded more studies (Ex. physiotherapy, physical therapy modalities, exercise therapy, rehabilitation, knee, placebo, groups, tibial meniscus, meniscus, arthroscopy, meniscectomy, partial meniscectomy, randomized controlled trial, controlled clinical trial, randomized, systematic review, and meta-analysis). Implications of key findings: This meta-analysis suggests that doctors can choose arthroscopic partial meniscectomy combined with medical exercise therapy for the treatment of degenerative meniscal tear.

Conclusion: Arthroscopic partial meniscectomy combined with medical exercise therapy is effective in reducing pain and improving range of motion in the early postoperative period. Therefore, arthroscopic partial meniscectomy combined with medical exercise therapy may be recommended for the treatment of degenerative meniscal tear. Further research is necessary to determine the type, frequency, and duration of the best exercise program. Systematic review registration number: Reviewregistry884.

Keywords: Arthroscopic partial meniscectomy; Medical exercise therapy; Meniscal tear; Meta-analysis.