When it comes to knee anatomy, the menisci are essential, behind the scenes contributors to the joint’s strength, stability and long-term health. This is a small, c-shaped disc of cartilage and is extremely vital to knee function and durability.
When one of the two menisci in the knee is damaged, surgery is often required. Except in older, less active patients and in younger patients whose bodies may heal themselves, meniscus surgery is usually the recommended approach.
All About Meniscus Injuries & Meniscus Surgery
Did You Know?...
In meniscus tears that occur abruptly during sports, for example, pain is usually an immediate symptom as the fibrocartilage is twisted and pinched between the tibia and femur.
Sometimes a meniscus can tear very gradually over time without the patient ever really noticing (this usually occurs in older, less mobile patients).
Like anterior cruciate ligament sprains, meniscus tears are often associated with a popping noise at the point of injury.
As one of the most common sports-related injuries, meniscus tears can happen as an athlete twists, cuts or pivots.
Meniscus surgery can resolve the injury by either cutting away the damaged area of the cartilage or by actually repairing the tear.
Common symptoms of a torn meniscus include pain, swelling, immobility and tenderness. Most patients experience pain along the joint line and it is usually most severe immediately following the injury. Treatment options can range from conservative to surgical, depending on the following criteria:
the patient’s age
the patient’s activity level
the extent of the damage sustained by the meniscus
whether or not other parts of the knee are also damaged
No Treatment: Some meniscal tears are asymptomatic. This means that the patient does not experience symptoms and their daily life is not impacted by the injury. In this case, no treatment is necessary.
Conservative Treatment: For some mild tears, rest, ice, and elevation can manage the swelling and if necessary, physical therapy is used to build the strength of the knee around the meniscus in order to protect it from further damage.
Surgical Treatment: Unfortunately, for most patients, symptoms will persist and unless the injury is resolved through a mechanical solution, the tear could even worsen over time. Meniscus surgery is done arthroscopically and the surgeon will often wait until he or she has visible access to the inside of the joint to determine whether the injury would be best addressed through removal or repair of the damaged meniscus.