Each knee has two menisci, which are bands of cartilage that act as a cushion between the shin and thigh bone. The meniscus stabilizes the knee joint and absorbs shock.
A meniscal tear can occur as a result of trauma or wear and tear.
In athletes and active patients, a meniscus tear can occur when a person aggressively rotates or twist their knee. This injury commonly occurs during contact sports and when pivoting while playing tennis, soccer or basketball.
An elderly patient may experience a degenerative meniscus tear as the cartilage has thinned and weakened over time. A degenerative meniscal tear is probably a sign of arthritis developing in the knee area. Damage case by arthritis may not be limited to the meniscus. Obesity can also contribute to wear and tear on the meniscus.
Symptoms of a Meniscus Tear
Common symptoms of a meniscal tear can include some or all of the following:
- Knee Locking
- Difficulty Straightening or Bending The Knee
- Knee Gives Out
An orthopedic doctor will perform a physical exam and order imaging test. An X-ray is ordered to rule out other knee disorders that may cause symptoms similar to a meniscal tear. An MRI will be ordered to view cartilage and tissue damage within the knee.
A doctor might also use an arthroscope to examine the area inside the knee. The tear may be trimmed or repaired during this procedure if necessary.
Treating a Torn Meniscus
The size, location and type of tear a patient has determines their treatment options. If the tear is small, some patients will be able to treat their injury using conservative methods. Rest, ice, anti-inflammatory medication, compression, elevation and physical therapy may benefit patients who aren’t experiencing knee stability to locking issues.
Surgery may be needed if the patient has a large tear, their knee is locking up, or they are having stability issues. Surgery may also be needed if the tear occurred in an area that won’t heal on it’s own due to a lack of blood supply.
The surgical repair of a torn meniscus is done arthroscopically and on an outpatient basis. The meniscus may be repaired or the torn part may be trimmed. The meniscus is trimmed if repair isn’t possible.
Schedule An Appointment With An Orthopedic Doctor
If you think your tore your meniscus or your are experiencing symptoms consistent with a meniscus tear, you should see an orthopedic knee specialist as soon a possible. Neglect can can lead to further damage or even permanent injury. Some tears will not heal without surgery. Our orthopedic doctors can provide you with an accurate diagnosis and discuss treatment options based on the type of injury and a patient’s lifestyle.