It is well documented that meniscal tears may be found frequently by MRI as an incidental finding in asymptomatic knees. We aim to review the literature regarding the ability of MRI to differentiate between asymptomatic and symptomatic meniscal tears. Ovid MEDLINE, MEDLINE inProcess, Cochrane reviews, Web of Science, Embase and CINAHL were systematically searched. A total of 1251 publications were screened based on their titles, abstracts and full texts, of which 1213 publications were excluded because they did not address the relationship between synovitis and meniscal tears, were case reports or reviews, concerned atypical patient populations or reported surgical research. Of the 38 retained publications, only two reported results specific to perimeniscal synovitis, while 36 discussed less specific but relevant findings. The small number of heterogeneous results describing perimeniscal synovitis precluded meta-analysis. In the symptomatic knee, identification of the likelihood of a meniscal tear contributing to the patient s pain is of significance to the orthopaedic surgeon. In our literature review, we have identified that localised synovitis and displacement of the meniscus are two features that may assist in identifying the subgroup of patients that may benefit from meniscal intervention.