This is often the result of athletic activities but it can also be caused by a slip or fall. Most often, the meniscus is involved – the tough fibrous cartilage that cushions the knee.
A torn meniscus is a common knee problem associated with both sports injuries and activities of daily living. The meniscus in the knee is a type of cartilage that is C-shaped and acts a shock absorber. It sits between the end of the femur (or thigh bone) and top of the tibia (or shin bone). Its job is to absorb some of the stress and forces between the 2 bones, as well as to add to the stability of the knee. Because the motion of the knee is not just a simple hinge, but also involves some twisting and gliding the meniscus is often torn when the knee is bent and twisted beyond its usual motion. This occurs while running and changing direction sharply or squatting and having the knee twist unexpectedly if an individual loses their balance.
Symptoms that are commonly seen with this type of injury are pain on the side of the knee which is affected, swelling, instability, pain when weight bearing and the inability to completely bend or straighten the knee.
If a short trial of elevating, ice, anti-inflammatory medicine and relieving pressure on the knee with crutches does not significantly improve the situation- medical evaluation is advised. This will usually consist of x-rays, a physical exam and sometimes an MRI.
When a torn meniscus is diagnosed, occasionally, conservative treatment including rest, ice and then strengthening will relieve symptoms and the knee will be functional for activities of daily living. Sometimes more strenuous activity may bring back the symptoms. If this occurs or if there is no initial relief of symptoms surgical treatment is frequently advised.
Surgical treatment of a torn meniscus is done arthroscopically by either removing the torn piece of cartilage or repairing it, depending on the location and direction of the tear. This is done as an outpatient, in the operating room, and in most cases people are moving and weightbearing that day or the next ,taking care to control swelling with elevating and ice at the same time. In the situation of repairing the cartilage the rehabilitation is slower and more extensive. Surgical treatment of a torn meniscus is done arthroscopically. This means we make 2 small incisions and insert a camera through one and work through the other. Depending on the location and direction of the tear, the torn piece of cartilage is either removed or repaired. The procedure is performed in the operating room as an out-patient surgery. Most patients are moving and weight bearing that day or the next. We recommend taking care to control swelling with ice and elevation.
Over 90% of patients make a full recovery and return to their normal activities. Our surgeons do this procedure frequently and are quite familiar and comfortable with its diagnosis and treatment. Our group is happy to see patients with this type of problem for evaluation on a timely basis.