Discoid meniscus (DM) is a rare variant of regular knee anatomy. Compared to standard meniscus it is thicker and abnormal in shape; these characteristics make it more prone to tear. It is a congenital defect whose correct etiology is still debated and far from being clarified. The purpose of this systematic review is to evaluate evidences of DM in human fetuses in order to assess whether embryological development may have a role.
A systematic review was performed on PubMed, Scopus, and Embase with different combinations of the keywords “discoid meniscus”, “embryology”, “fetus”, “neonatal”. Search yielded 1013 studies, on which we performed a primary evaluation.
Seven studies were considered including a total of 1378 fetal menisci specimens, from 396 different fetuses. Discoid shape was not found represented as a normal stage of prenatal development. From 782 lateral menisci analyzed, only 86 (10.86%) were discoid (13 complete, 73 incomplete type). None of medial menisci was found to be discoid. Lateral meniscus was observed to cover a larger surface of tibial plateau than medial one until 28th gestational week.
Lateral meniscus seems to be more prone to discoid shape for its natural tendency of covering a larger surface of the tibial plateau during fetal stages. However the fact that a discoid shape was not found in the majority of fetuses suggests that it is not a normal stage of fetal development. To support a single etiological factor it will be appropriate to have further morphological and morphometric studies.

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