Meniscal (Meniscus) Tear
A meniscus is a piece of cartilage that acts as a shock absorber between bones. It stabilizes the joints by evenly distributing the load across the joint area.
In the knee, the crescent-shaped menisci are in between the ends of the upper (femur) and lower (tibia) leg bones. The menisci protect the knee joint surface and absorb the shock produced by activities such as walking, running, and jumping.
The meniscus can be torn with the shearing forces of rotation that are applied to the knee during sharp, rapid motions. This is especially common in sports requiring reaction body movements.
Routine X-rays, while they do not reveal a meniscal tear, can be used to exclude other problems of the knee joint. The meniscal tear can be diagnosed in one of three ways: arthroscopy , arthrography, or an MRI. Arthroscopy is a surgical technique by which a small diameter video camera is inserted through tiny incisions on the sides of the knee for the purposes of examining and repairing internal knee joint problems. Tiny instruments can be used during arthroscopy to repair the torn meniscus.
There are many things to consider when deciding how to treat your torn meniscus, including the extent and location of the tear, your pain level, your age and activity level, your doctor’s preference, and when the injury occurred. Your treatment choices are:
- Nonsurgical treatment with rest, ice, compression, elevation, and physical therapy. This may include wearing a temporary knee brace.
- Surgical repair to sew the tear together.
- Partial meniscectomy, which is surgery to remove the torn section.
- Total meniscectomy, which is surgery to remove the entire meniscus. This is generally avoided, because this option increases the risk for osteoarthritis in the knee.