BACKGROUND: Clinical outcomes and survivorship of meniscus transplants remain unclear, especially when magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and weightbearing radiographic findings are included as endpoints. Many studies calculate survivorship based only on subsequent operative procedures.
PURPOSE: We prospectively determined long-term survivorship and functional outcomes of 72 consecutive meniscus transplants. The effects of articular cartilage damage, concurrent osteochondral autograft transfer (20 knees), patient age, and tibiofemoral compartment were evaluated.
STUDY DESIGN: Case series; Level of evidence, 4.
METHODS: The long-term function and survival rates of 69 of 72 consecutive medial and lateral bone-meniscus-bone transplants (96% follow-up) were determined. Survival endpoints of reoperations, MRI failure (grade 3 signal intensity, extrusion >50% of meniscal width), meniscal tear on examination, and radiographic loss of joint space provided a worst-case outcome. Long-term functional analysis was performed in 58 transplants a mean of 11.9 ± 3.2 years postoperatively. The Cincinnati and International Knee Documentation Committee rating systems were used to evaluate outcomes.
RESULTS: For all transplants, the estimated probability of survival was 85% at 2 years, 77% at 5 years, 69% at 7 years, 45% at 10 years, and 19% at 15 years. There were significant improvements for pain, swelling, walking, stair climbing, and patient knee rating (P < .05). Further surgery was performed in 37 cases. Knees that had concurrent osteochondral autograft transfer had significantly lower survival rates beginning at the seventh postoperative year; however, there was no significant difference in the long-term symptom, function, and patient perception scores between these knees and the rest of the cohort. The factors of articular cartilage damage (grade 2B/3 vs none), patient age (<30 years vs 30-49 years), and tibiofemoral compartment (medial vs lateral) had no significant effect on the survival, symptom, or functional analyses.
CONCLUSION: A survival analysis that includes reoperations, MRI, radiographs, and a comprehensive examination provides a worst-case but realistic analysis of transplant function. Many patients experienced a short- and long-term benefit of reduced symptoms and improved function. However, meniscus transplants undergo a deleterious remodeling process and eventually fail. Patients should be advised that the procedure is not curative in the long term, and additional surgery will likely be required.