Up to One-Half of Runners Return to Running One Year After Arthroscopic Partial Meniscectomy

3D rendering of human knee bone and cartilage with meniscus tear highlighted red

There’s no proven correlation between running as an athletic pastime and meniscal tears. However, many runners do sustain acute meniscal injuries, and arthroscopic partial meniscectomy (APM) may appeal to them because it’s an outpatient procedure with low morbidity and a short rehabilitation period.

Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital determined that within one year after APM, approximately 50% of runners return to their preoperative running frequency. Eli T. Sayegh, MD, formerly of the Brigham, and Elizabeth G. Matzkin, MD, chief of Women’s Sports Medicine in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, detail the results in Arthroscopy, Sports Medicine, and Rehabilitation.

Characteristics of the Cohort

The team reviewed data on 185 runners who underwent primary APM of the medial (79%) and/or lateral (21%) meniscus performed by Dr. Matzkin. Being a runner was defined as running at least twice a week.

48% of the cohort was female, the average age was 46, and the mean BMI was 29 (35% of patients were overweight and 37% were obese). 68% of patients also underwent chondroplasty. All patients had failed to improve after a minimum of six weeks of nonoperative treatment.

Return to Running

Before surgery, 61% of patients reported running two to three times weekly, and 39% reported running four or more times weekly.

At one year after surgery, 50% of patients had returned to running at least twice weekly:

  • 4 or more times weekly—16%
  • 2 to 3 times weekly—34%
  • Once weekly—14%
  • Once monthly—6%
  • Less than once monthly—31%

41% had returned to running at the same or greater frequency than before surgery.

At two years, 46% of runners had returned to running at least twice weekly:

  • 4 or more times weekly—14%
  • 2 to 3 times weekly—32%
  • Once weekly—14%
  • Once monthly—8%
  • Less than once monthly—32%

38% had returned to the same or greater frequency of running.

Patient-reported Outcomes

In general, the cohort reported significant improvements over one and two years on a visual analog pain scale, the Knee Injury and Osteoarthritis Outcome Score (Pain and Function in Sport and Recreation), and the physical component of the Veterans RAND 12-Item Health Survey (VR-12). There was no significant improvement in the VR-12 mental component.

Predictors of Return to Running

In multivariable models, significant predictors of returning to running at least twice weekly were:

  • BMI <25 before surgery (P=0.0335)
  • Running 4 or more times weekly before surgery (P=0.0421)

This information may be useful when engaging in shared decision-making with runners who have persistently symptomatic meniscal tears and wish to continue their active lifestyle.

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