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BACKGROUND: Arthroscopic partial meniscectomy is one of the most common orthopaedic procedures worldwide. Clinical trial evidence published in the past 6 years, however, has raised questions about the effectiveness of the procedure in some patient groups. In view of concerns about potential overuse, we aimed to establish the true risk of serious complications after arthroscopic partial meniscectomy. METHODS: We analysed national Hospital Episode Statistics data for all arthroscopic partial meniscectomies done in England between April 1, 1997, and March 31, 2017. Simultaneous or staged (within 6 months) bilateral cases were excluded. We identified complications occurring in the 90 days after the index procedure. The primary outcome was the occurrence of at least one serious complication within 90 days, which was defined as either myocardial infarction, stroke, pulmonary embolism, infection requiring surgery, fasciotomy, neurovascular injury, or death. Logistic regression modelling was used to identify factors associated with complications and, when possible, risk was compared with general population data. FINDINGS: During the study period 1 088 782 arthroscopic partial meniscectomies were done, 699 965 of which were eligible for analysis. Within 90 days, serious complications occurred in 2218 (0·317% [95% CI 0·304-0·330]) cases, including 546 pulmonary embolisms (0·078% [95% CI 0·072-0·085]) and 944 infections necessitating further surgery (0·135% [95% CI 0·126-0·144]). Increasing age (adjusted odds ratio [OR] 1·247 per decade [95% CI 1·208-1·288) and modified Charlson comorbidity index (adjusted OR 1·860 per 10 units [95% CI 1·708-2·042]) were associated with an increased risk of serious complications. Female sex was associated with a reduced risk of serious complications (adjusted OR 0·640 [95% CI 0·580-0·705). The risk of mortality fell over time (adjusted OR 0·965 per year [95% CI 0·937-0·994]). Mortality, myocardial infarction, and stroke occurred less frequently in the study cohort than in the general population. The risks of infection and pulmonary embolism did not change during the study, and were significantly higher in the study cohort than in the general population. For every 1390 (95% CI 1272-1532) fewer knee arthroscopies done, one pulmonary embolism could be prevented. For every 749 (95% CI 704-801) fewer procedures done, one native knee joint infection could be prevented. INTERPRETATION: Overall, the risk associated with undergoing arthroscopic partial meniscectomy was low. However, some rare but serious complications (including pulmonary embolism and infection) are associated with the procedure, and the risks have not fallen with time. In view of uncertainty about the effectiveness of arthroscopic partial meniscectomy, an appreciation of relative risks is crucial for patients and clinicians. Our data provide a basis for decision making and consent. FUNDING: UK National Institute for Health Research.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





2194 - 2202


Adult, Age Distribution, Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Arthroscopy, England, Female, Hospitalization, Humans, Male, Meniscectomy, Middle Aged, Postoperative Complications, Prospective Studies, Risk Factors, Young Adult