Objective: Patients with meniscal tears reporting “meniscal symptoms” such as catching or locking, have traditionally undergone arthroscopy. We investigated whether patients with meniscal tears who report “meniscal symptoms” have greater improvement with arthroscopic partial meniscectomy (APM) than physical therapy (PT).
Methods: We used data from the Meniscal Tear in Osteoarthritis Research (MeTeOR) trial, which randomized participants with knee osteoarthritis (OA) and meniscal tear to APM or PT. The frequency of each “meniscal symptom” (clicking, catching, popping, intermittent locking, giving way, swelling) was measured at baseline and 6-months. We used linear regression models to determine whether the difference in improvement in KOOS Pain at 6-months between those treated with APM versus PT was modified by the presence of each “meniscal symptom”. We also determined the percent of participants with resolution of “meniscal symptoms” by treatment group.
Results: We included 287 participants. The presence (vs. absence) of any of the “meniscal symptoms” did not modify the improvement in KOOS Pain between APM vs. PT by more than 0.5 SD (all p-interaction >0.05). APM led to greater resolution of intermittent locking and clicking than PT (locking 70% vs 46%, clicking 41% vs 25%). No difference in resolution of the other “meniscal symptoms” was observed.
Conclusion: “Meniscal symptoms” were not associated with improved pain relief. Although symptoms of clicking and intermittent locking had a greater reduction in the APM group, the presence of “meniscal symptoms” in isolation should not inform clinical decisions surrounding APM vs. PT in patients with meniscal tear and knee OA.