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The Natural History of Meniscus Tears.

BACKGROUND: In order to determine whether treatments are effective in the treatment of meniscus tears, it is first necessary to understand the natural history of meniscus tears. The purpose of this paper is to review the literature to ascertain the natural history of meniscus tears in children and adolescents.

METHODS: A search of the Pubmed and Embase databases was performed using the search terms "meniscus tears," "natural history of meniscus tears," "knee meniscus," "discoid meniscus," and "natural history of discoid meniscus tears."

RESULTS: A total of 2567 articles on meniscus tears, 28 articles on natural history of meniscus tears, 8065 articles on "menisci," 396 articles on "discoid meniscus," and only 2 on the "natural history of discoid meniscus" were found. After reviewing the titles of these articles and reviewing the abstracts of 237 articles, it was clear that there was little true long-term natural history data of untreated meniscus tears nor whether treating meniscus tears altered the natural history. Twenty-five articles were chosen as there was some mention of natural history in their studies.

CONCLUSIONS: There are few long-term data on untreated meniscal tears or discoid meniscus, or tears in children and adolescents. The literature suggests that there is a higher incidence of chondral injury and subsequent osteoarthritis, but there are many confounding variables which are not controlled for in these relatively short-term papers.

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