MRI accuracy for tears of the posterior horn of the lateral meniscus in patients with acute anterior cruciate ligament injury and the clinical relevance of missed tears

Bryan J. Laundre, Mark S. Collins, Jeffrey R. Bond, Diane L. Dahm, Michael J. Stuart, Jayawant Mandrekar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

34 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE. The sensitivity of MRI for the detection of tears of the posterior horn of the lateral meniscus (PHLM) is lowest compared with that for tears at other meniscal locations, and the presence of simultaneous acute anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury decreases overall MRI sensitivity for meniscal tears. We rereviewed surgically proven cases of missed meniscal tears in knees with an acute ACL injury to determine why PHLM tears may be missed. We also investigated whether the missed PHLM tears were clinically significant - that is, if these tears required surgical repair or resection. MATERIALS AND METHODS. We reviewed the medical records of 120 patients (< 40 years old) who underwent arthroscopic ACL reconstruction within 6 weeks after MRI to identify MRI-missed meniscal tears. Missed PHLM tears were categorized as clearly evident, occult, or subtle during MRI rereview. The "two-touch-slice" rule served as the primary criterion for tear diagnosis. Secondary MRI findings, including an abnormal superior popliteomeniscal fascicle and apparent far lateral extension of the meniscofemoral ligament, and additional clinical, surgical, and initial MRI findings were compared between meniscal tear groups. RESULTS. The majority (19/28) of missed tears involved the PHLM: Five were clearly evident at the time of rereview, all of which required surgical treatment; six were occult, none of which was treated; and eight were subtle, four of which were treated. Knees with PHLM tears were more likely to have abnormal superior popliteomeniscal fascicles (p = 0.002) and apparent far lateral extension of the meniscofemoral ligament (p = 0.003) than knees with normal lateral menisci. CONCLUSION. Clearly evident missed PHLM tears would not have been missed if the two-touch-slice rule had been strictly applied at prospective MRI interpretation. Unavoidably missed PHLM tears were not clinically significant. However, there were no clinical or secondary MRI findings specific to missed PHLM tears in the setting of acute ACL injury.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)515-523
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Roentgenology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2009



  • Acute anterior cruciate ligament injury
  • Anterior cruciate ligament tear
  • Knee MRI
  • Lateral meniscus tear
  • Posterior horn of the lateral meniscus
  • Sports medicine
  • Trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging

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