The researchers, as expected, found a high correlation between meniscal malposition and meniscal damage. The impact of meniscal abnormality on cartilage lost was most pronounced in the medial tibiofemoral joint--the inner joint connecting the knee to the lower leg. Each measure of meniscal misalignment was associated with an increased risk of cartilage loss. There was also a strong association of meniscal tears with cartilage loss. Reductions in the coverage and height of the meniscus, provoked by partial dislocation of the meniscus, also increased the risk of cartilage loss.
This study does not distinguish the type of meniscal tear that may propel cartilage loss or implicate meniscus damage as a cause of OA. However, it does call attention to the potential of a strong, whole meniscus to protect the knee from rapid devastation in the early stages of OA, and perhaps even mitigate the need for need replacement surgery. "At present, efforts are being made to preserve a damaged meniscus rather than remove it, and an industry of meniscal replacement is developing," Dr. Hunter notes. "Our study points to the need for critical, prospective evaluation of these new therapeutic options."