One of two crescent-shaped pieces of rubbery fibrocartilage in the knee joint, the medial meniscus is a key component in the joint’s overall stability. It sits on the tibia and absorbs the shock of movements that would otherwise result in abrupt impact and pain.
The lateral meniscus is located on the outer side of the knee, while the medial meniscus is on the inner side. Where the femur meets the tibia, these wedges are essential in lubricating the joint and transferring force across the joint evenly. When it comes to medial meniscus tear treatment, there are several factors that determine if and how repair is possible.
The Challenge of Healing
The menisci are bands of fibrocartilage, an extremely durable material. Although they are strong, they are also flexible. This unique combination of properties is due to the presence of collagen fiber in their makeup, but the very factor that makes them exceptionally resilient is the same characteristic that makes the healing of a torn meniscus very difficult.
Because of the high water content in the spaces between cells, the blood supply to the center of the meniscus is very minimal. In fact, only the outer edges even have access to blood flow at all. When a meniscus tears into the center of the band, the lack of blood supply to that area limits the natural ability of the body to heal itself.
Medial Meniscus Tear Treatment
After a knee injury is sustained, an orthopedic or sports medicine specialist will confirm the diagnosis of a torn meniscus using a physical exam and an x-ray or MRI, if necessary. At that point, several factors will be considered before the physician decides upon the best possible medial meniscus tear treatment for that particular case.
The patients’ age, weight, overall health and activity level
If the patient is young and healthy and the tear is small and located in one of the outer thirds of the band, the physician may recommend rest and physical therapy to give the injury time to potentially heal on its own.
2. The size and severity of the tear
Tears can be acute or degenerative. Acute tears occur more frequently in active individuals and are often reported as happening when the knee is bent or twisted forcefully. Degenerative tears, on the other hand, occurs simply with age as the elasticity and strength of the cartilage in the bands becomes compromised after years of use.
Medial meniscus tear treatment is also determined by whether the tear is complete or incomplete. In other words, the entire band can be split totally in half or it can be only partially torn. If the tear is still even slightly attached to the body of the meniscus, the injury is considered incomplete.
3. The location of the tear
Those in the outer thirds of the band have the best chance of healing, while an injury to the inner third almost always requires a mechanical solution. Surgery for meniscal tears is done arthroscopically by either cutting away the damaged area of the cartilage or by repairing the tear.