The diagnosis of a meniscal tear is often made based on the history and pain pattern. A physician can also use special tests on the knee. Stress and movement of the knee joint can make the meniscal tear snap or cause pain. This sign helps confirm the diagnosis.
An MRI scan can be used to see the meniscus and the condition it's in. A good MRI scanner has a very high accuracy rate. It can show clearly when a tear is present or when a piece of meniscus is missing.
MRIs aren't used routinely because of the cost. If the clinical exam is positive, then arthroscopic surgery is often indicated anyway. Some MRI findings such as degeneration of
the cartilage common with aging doesn't necessarily mean surgery is needed.