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Collagenous fibril texture of the human knee joint menisci


 Anatomical and clinical literature describes the arrangement of collagen fibrils in the human meniscus as being ”arcade-like”. The ”arcade-like” orientation, mainly running in a radial direction in the internal circumference and in a circular direction in the external circumference, was found in polarization light microscopic studies. This, however, does not provide a mechanical explanation for the direction of meniscus tears. In view of this contradiction collagen fibrils in the menisci of adults aged from 18 to 85 years were exposed layer-by-layer to study their arrangement by scanning electron microscopy. The results obtained by this procedure were compared to the path of the split lines. Scanning electron microscopy reveals three distinct layers in the meniscus cross section: (1) The tibial and femoral sides of the meniscus surfaces are covered by a meshwork of thin fibrils with a diameter of approximately 30 nm. (2) Beneath the superficial network there is a layer of lamellalike collagen fibril bundles on the tibial and femoral surface. In the area of the external circumference of the anterior and posterior segments the bundles of collagen fibrils are arranged in a radial direction. In all other parts the collagen fibril bundles intersect at various angles. (3) The main portion of the meniscus collagen fibrils are located in the central region between the femoral and the tibial surface layers. Everywhere in the central main portion of the meniscus the bundles of collagen fibrils are orientated in a circular manner. The split lines in the region of the internal circumference of the menisci are arranged in a circular manner, generally running in a radial direction in the portions adjacent to the base. Scanning electron microscopy reveals that the direction of the split lines depends on the orientation of the collagen fibrils in the superficial lamellar layer. The arcade-like path of the collagen fibrils described in the literature can not be confirmed either by scanning electron microscopy or by the course of the split lines. The circular arrangement of collagen fibrils in the central portion of the meniscus provides a functional explanation for the longitudinal orientation of the majority of tears in the meniscus tissue.

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Accepted: 20 November 1997

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Petersen, W., Tillmann, B. Collagenous fibril texture of the human knee joint menisci. Anat Embryol 197, 317–324 (1998). https://doi.org/10.1007/s004290050141

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  • Key words Scanning electron microscopy
  • Splitlines
  • Attractive and repulsive singular points
  • Meniscus tears