NEW YORK, 20 mar 2009– Damage to the meniscus in the knee joint may lead to osteoarthritis in middle-age and elderly patients.
The meniscus is the wedge of cartilage in the knee that stops the end of the femur (thighbone) rubbing directly on the top of the tibia (the main shinbone). The meniscus is actually two structures on each side of the knee joint.
"Meniscal damage often is a key player in the development of knee osteoarthritis, whether or not meniscal surgery is performed," Dr. Martin Englund told Reuters Health.
As reported in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism, Dr. Englund, from Boston University School of Medicine and Lund University Hospital in Sweden, and colleagues investigated the link between meniscal damage and the development of osteoarthritis over 30 months in almost 450 people between the ages of 50 and 79.
Individuals with minor meniscal tear were 3 times more likely than those with no meniscal damage to develop knee osteoarthritis, the authors report. For people with more severe meniscal damage, the risk was 8 times greater.
The results strongly suggest that meniscal tear "is a potent structural risk factor" for the development of osteoarthritis, the investigators conclude.
"Please keep in mind that it is often not the meniscal tear that is causing the patient discomfort," Englund commented. "Other processes or structures related to early knee osteoarthritis development are more likely the source."