What are radial tears?
Radial tears are tears that originate from the more central region of the meniscus and extend outwards towards the peripheral edges. Because of their orientation, radial tears disrupt the circumferential protein fibers that allow the meniscus to absorb forces. This can potentially compromise the function of the meniscus. This pattern of tears is most commonly located in the posterior portion of the medial meniscus or in the middle and anterior sections of the lateral meniscus.
Radial tears can be subdivided into complete tears or incomplete tears. As the tear extends outwards it has the potential to extend all the way to the peripheral rim of the meniscus. If it is able to tear completely across the meniscus and reach this rim it is called a complete radial tear. If it does not reach the rim, it is termed an incomplete radial tear.
How are radial tears treated?
Because of the orientation of the tear, complete radial tears will need to be repaired otherwise the meniscus will remain nonfunctional as all of the circumferential protein fibers have been cut. If the tear is a smaller incomplete tear, a patient can be best treated with a resection of the injured meniscal flaps. Because the tear extends from the central portion to the peripheral portion, it originates at an area of low blood flow. This means the tear starts from a region of limited healing potential and would have a reduced chance for successful repair. Additionally, if the tear is small, it can be removed without compromising the menisci’s function. For larger incomplete tears, the best treatment modality will be based on the patient’s specific goals and either meniscal removal (meniscectomy) or meniscal repair is a viable treatment option.