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An Infected, Extruded Lateral Meniscal Cyst as a Cause of Knee Symptoms

Wyss, James F., MD, PT; Foye, Patrick M., MD; Stitik, Todd P., MD

American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation: March 2010 - Volume 89 - Issue 3 - p 175-176
doi: 10.1097/PHM.0b013e3181ca2431
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From the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, New Jersey Medical School, Newark, New Jersey.

Financial disclosure statements have been obtained, and no conflicts of interest have been reported by the authors or by any individuals in control of the content of this article.

All correspondence and requests for reprints should be addressed to James F. Wyss, MD, PT, PM&R resident (PGY-4), UMDNJ: New Jersey Medical School, 309 Pine Dr., Bay Shore, NY 11706.

A 62-yr-old male runner with known bilateral knee osteoarthritis presented to a Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation outpatient musculoskeletal practice because of a left lateral knee mass, with associated pain and pressure. The mass was clearly visible and palpable. X-rays revealed his preexisting severe tricompartmental osteoarthritis. Magnetic resonance imaging revealed a lateral meniscal tear with extrusion of the lateral meniscus through the lateral capsule, thus forming a large lateral meniscal cyst (Fig. 1).



Initial aspiration of the cyst yielded 2 ml of very viscous fluid without crystals or infection. Repeated aspiration over subsequent months yielded up to 10 ml of similar fluid. Each aspiration improved his pain, pressure, and function. An orthopedist suggested postponing surgery for this cyst until his planned total knee replacement next year. He did well with nonsurgical management until he developed an acute infection of the cyst with associated left leg cellulitis (Fig. 2). It had been multiple months since any local injection/aspiration, and he had no recent systemic illness. Thus, the presumed source of infection was a local abrasion at the skin over the cyst, which had been a recurrent problem. Cyst cultures revealed Staphylococcus aureus with broad susceptibility to antibiotics. Based on possible underlying osteomyelitis at the proximal tibia, he underwent surgical irrigation, debridement, and antibiotic bead placement, in addition to intravenous antibiotics.



Meniscal cysts are relatively uncommon and a rare cause of knee pain or mass, seen in approximately 1% of those undergoing meniscectomies.1 They more commonly arise from the lateral meniscus and are frequently associated with horizontal meniscal tears.2 The cause of meniscal cysts is unknown, but previous trauma may play a role.3 Magnetic resonance imaging is generally sufficient for diagnosis if an associated meniscal tear is visualized. Ultrasound can visualize the cyst, but it is inferior to magnetic resonance imaging for detecting underlying meniscal tears. Without a visualized meniscal tear, tissue diagnosis may be necessary to rule out malignancy.4 Treatment options include needle aspiration/corticosteroid injection vs. more definitive care via either arthroscopic or open surgical excision.

An extensive search of the literature fails to reveal any other reports of an extruded meniscal cyst as a site of infection. Musculoskeletal physicians should nonetheless be aware of meniscal cysts and their complications, and diagnostic and treatment options.

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1. Mills CA, Henderson IJ: Cysts of the medial meniscus; arthroscopic diagnosis and management. J Bone Joint Surg Br 1993;75:293–8
2. Glasgow MM, Allen PW, Blakeway C: Arthroscopic treatment of cysts of the lateral meniscus. J Bone Joint Surg Br 1993;75:299–302
3. Krudwig WK, Schulte KK, Heinemann C: Intra-articular ganglion cysts of the knee joint: A report of 85 cases and review of the literature. Knee Surg Sports Traumatol Arthrosc 2004;12:123–9
4. Roidis N, Zachos V, Basdekis G, et al: Tumor-like meniscal cyst. Arthroscopy 2007;23:111.e1–e6
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