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Anatomical significance of a posterior horn of medial meniscus: the relationship between its radial tear and cartilage degradation of joint surface

Akinori Kan1*, Midori Oshida2, Shigemi Oshida3, Masato Imada4, Takumi Nakagawa1 and Shuji Okinaga2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Sensory & Motor System Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Tokyo, 7-3-1 Hongo, Bunkyo, Tokyo 113-8655, Japan

2 Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Tokyo Teishin Hospital, 2-14-23 Fujimi, Chiyoda, Tokyo 102-8798, Japan

3 Department of Legal Medicine, Nihon University School of Medicine, 30-1 Ooyaguchi, Kamimachi Itabashi, Tokyo 173-8610, Japan

4 Department of Anatomy, Nihon University School of Medicine, 30-1 Ooyaguchi, Kamimachi Itabashi, Tokyo 173-8610, Japan

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Sports Medicine, Arthroscopy, Rehabilitation, Therapy & Technology 2010, 2:1  doi:10.1186/1758-2555-2-1

Published: 12 January 2010



Traumatic injury and surgical meniscectomy of a medial meniscus are known to cause subsequent knee osteoarthritis. However, the difference in the prevalence of osteoarthritis caused by the individual type of the medial meniscal tear has not been elucidated. The aim of this study was to investigate what type of tear is predominantly responsible for the degradation of articular cartilage in the medial compartment of knee joints.


Five hundred and forty eight cadaveric knees (290 male and 258 female) were registered in this study. The average age of cadavers at death was 78.8 years old (range: 52-103 years). The knees were macroscopically examined and their medial menisci were classified into four groups according to types of tears: "no tear", "radial tear of posterior horn", "other types of tear" and "worn-out meniscus" groups. The severity of cartilage degradation in their medial compartment of knee joints was evaluated using the international cartilage repair society (ICRS) grading system. We statistically compared the ICRS grades among the groups using Mann-Whitney U test.


The knees were assigned into the four groups: 416 "no tear" knees, 51 "radial tear of posterior horn" knees, 71 "other types of tear" knees, and 10 "worn-out meniscus" knees. The knees with substantial meniscal tears showed the severer ICRS grades of cartilage degradation than those without meniscal tears. In addition, the ICRS grades were significantly severer in the "radial tear of posterior horn" group than in the "other types of tear" group, suggesting that the radial tear of posterior horn in the medial meniscus is one of the risk factors for cartilage degradation of joint surface.


We have clarified the relationship between the radial tear of posterior horn in the medial meniscus and the severer grade of cartilage degradation. This study indicates that the efforts should be made to restore the anatomical role of the posterior horn in keeping the hoop strain, when patients' physical activity levels are high and the tear pattern is simple enough to be securely sutured.