Meniscus cartilage is the firm, gristly tissue shaped in a “C” (inside aspect) or “O” (outside aspect) configuration which is somewhat triangular in cross section. These cartilage rings serve to distribute the weight of the thigh bone (femur) over a larger surface on the lower leg bone (tibia) and thus protect the adjacent articular cartilage from stress and wear.
Meniscal injuries are a frequent source of pain and disability in all age groups. Young people with active lifestyles can tear their meniscus as a result of significant trauma or with the more routine pivoting and twisting movements of the knee that occur during sporting activities.
As we age the meniscus can become brittle, thinned, and frayed and is prone to tearing from simple daily stresses.
A torn meniscus can produce a mechanical rubbing or grating on the softer articular cartilage of the femur and tibia and lead to premature wear, degeneration, and arthritis. It is uncommon for meniscus tears to heal spontaneously.
Meniscal injuries frequently result in pain along the inside or outside of the knee. Associated swelling along with more mechanical symptoms like catching, clicking and locking are common. Some larger or displaced tears can cause the knee to “get stuck” and limit the ability to fully extend or flex the knee.
The diagnosis of a torn meniscus is based on a thorough examination of the knee. Pressure placed over the area of the meniscal tear will usually elicit pain. Orthopedic maneuvers to stress the injured meniscus may provoke a catching or clicking. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the knee permits visualization of the meniscus and may show tearing or degeneration.
The goal of treatment of meniscal tears is to relieve pain and disability and provide a stable knee. Treatment is based on the size, location,and character of the tear. The general health of the surrounding structures of the knee influences the decision. Those meniscal tears which are relatively clean, without degeneration, and have an adequate supply of blood are repaired. Tears not amenable to repair often require the torn portion to be removed. As much meniscal tissue as possible is preserved.
Surgical treatment is performed arthroscopically through several 1/4 inch incisions. Rehabilitation following
surgery is monitored until you have recovered fully.