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Clin Biomech (Bristol, Avon). 1996 Jul;11(5):295-300.

Direct measurement of hoop strains in the intact and torn human medial meniscus.

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  • 1Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and Trauma, Royal Adelaide Hospital and The University of Adelaide, Sportsmed., SA, Australia.



To measure the circumferential or hoop strains generated in the medial meniscus during loading of the knee joint and to examine the effect of longitudinal and radial tears in the meniscus on these strain values.


An in vitro investigation measuring the circumferential strains in the medial menisci of cadaveric human knees as they were loaded in a materials testing machine.


The menisci transmit approximately 50% of the load through the knee, the rest being transmitted by direct contact of the articular cartilage. Damage to the menisci will alter the pattern of load transmission as will meniscectomy. This study examined the changes in the mechanics of the meniscus in situ as a result of simulated tears to assess the effect of its load carrying capacity and the implications of surgery to remove part or all of a damaged meniscus.


Nineteen human cadaveric knees were tested. Windows were made in the joint capsule and strain gauges inserted into the anterior, middle and posterior sections of the medial meniscus. The knees were then loaded to three times body weight at speeds of 50 and 500 mm/min, with the knee joint at 0 degrees and 30 degrees of flexion. The tests were repeated following the creation of a longitudinal or a radial tear in the meniscus.


The intact menisci showed significantly less strain in the posterior section compared to the anterior and middle sections (P < 0.003, with strains of 1.54%, 2.86% and 2.65% respectively). With a longitudinal tear this pattern changed with strains decreasing anteriorly and increasing posteriorly. There were also significant differences at different angles of knee joint flexion not seen in the intact meniscus. 50% radial tears reduced the strains anteriorly whilst a complete radial tear completely defunctioned the meniscus.


This study has shown that there are significantly different hoop strains produced in different sections of the medial meniscus under load and the patterns of strain distribution are disturbed by meniscal tears.


These results provide important data for mathematical models which must include non-uniform behaviour. They also have implications for the surgical management of torn menisci. Undamaged portions should be preserved and the integrity of the circumferential fibres maintained to ensure the menisci retain a load bearing capability.

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