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Diagnostic accuracy of 3.0 T magnetic resonance imaging for the detection of meniscus posterior root pathology

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The purpose of this study was to determine the diagnostic accuracy of 3 T MRI, including sensitivity, specificity, negative and positive predictive values, for detection of posterior medial and lateral meniscus root tears and avulsions.


All patients who had a 3 T MRI of the knee, followed by arthroscopic surgery, were included in this study. Arthroscopy was considered the gold standard. Meniscus root tears diagnosed at arthroscopy and on MRI were defined as a complete meniscus root detachment within 9 mm of the root. All surgical data were collected prospectively and stored in a data registry. MRI exams were reported prospectively by a musculoskeletal radiologist and reviewed retrospectively.


There were 287 consecutive patients (156 males, 131 females; mean age 41.7 years) in this study. Prevalence of meniscus posterior root tears identified at arthroscopy was 9.1, 5.9 % for medial and 3.5 % for lateral root tears (one patient had both). Sensitivity was 0.770 (95 % CI 0.570, 0.901), specificity was 0.729 (95 % CI 0.708, 0.741), positive predictive value was 0.220 (95 % CI 0.163, 0.257) and negative predictive value was 0.970 (95 % CI 0.943, 0.987). For medial root tears, sensitivity was 0.824 (95 % CI 0.569, 0.953), specificity was 0.800 (95 % CI 0.784, 0.808), positive predictive value was 0.206 (95 % CI 0.142, 0.238) and negative predictive value was 0.986 (95 % CI 0.967, 0.996). For lateral meniscus posterior root tears, sensitivity was 0.600 (95 % CI 0.281, 0.860), specificity was 0.903 (95 % CI 0.891, 0.912), positive predictive value was 0.181 (95 % CI 0.085, 0.261) and negative predictive value was 0.984 (95 % CI 0.972, 0.994).


This study demonstrated moderate sensitivity and specificity of 3 T MRI to detect posterior meniscus root tears. The negative predictive value of 3 T MRI to detect posterior meniscus root tears was high; however, the positive predictive value was low. Sensitivity was higher for medial root tears, indicating a higher risk of missing lateral root tears on MRI. Imaging has an important role in identifying meniscus posterior horn root tears; however, some root tears may not be identified until arthroscopy.

Level of evidence

Prognostic study (diagnostic), Level II.

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Correspondence to Charles P. Ho.

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LaPrade, R.F., Ho, C.P., James, E. et al. Diagnostic accuracy of 3.0 T magnetic resonance imaging for the detection of meniscus posterior root pathology. Knee Surg Sports Traumatol Arthrosc 23, 152–157 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00167-014-3395-5

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  • Posterior meniscus root tear
  • 3 T MRI
  • Diagnostic
  • Sensitivity
  • Specificity