Repairing Your Torn Meniscus to Get You Back in the Game
What is a Torn Meniscus?
Sometimes referred to as “shock absorbers,” the menisci provide stability and help distribute body weight by keeping the bones in your knee from rubbing against one another. When these shock absorbers are damaged, they can cause pain and a lack of mobility in the knee.
A torn meniscus is one of the most common knee injuries. Anyone at any age can experience a torn meniscus, though the most common causes are due to traumatic injuries and degenerative processes, meaning athletes and older patients with more brittle cartilage are at an increased risk.
For Meniscus Tears
Symptoms of a Torn Meniscus
Often, at the time of a meniscus injury or tear, you will immediately be able to tell there is a problem. Not only can this injury be felt acutely when it occurs, but it will almost always be accompanied by ongoing pain and swelling. Signs and symptoms of an injured or torn meniscus may include:
- A popping sensation at the time of injury
- Pain, especially when twisting or rotating the knee
- Swelling, stiffness, or tightness in the knee
- Inability to move the knee through its full range of motion
Diagnosing a Meniscus Tear
“If your meniscus tear is not diagnosed and treated appropriately, it could lead to arthritis in the future.”
To diagnose a tear during your office visit, Dr. Goradia will ask you about your symptoms and any injuries that may have occurred. In addition, he will carefully examine your knee for a variety of different conditions. In most cases, these two steps alone can provide the surgeon with a very good idea of your diagnosis.
Depending on your particular case and tear, Dr. Goradia may also find it necessary to include an X-ray to detect if there is any severe damage, such as arthritis, or an MRI to identify the meniscus tear and any cartilage damage. These techniques will give a more accurate indication of the problem, but only an arthroscopy can accurately determine the full extent of the damage and simultaneously provide treatment.
Treatment for a Torn Meniscus
Typically, meniscal tears are simply removed. Most tears to the meniscus are in the inner ⅔, where there is no blood supply to make healing possible. These tears require an excision of the torn segment done via arthroscopic surgery through two small skin punctures. After surgery, patients can fully move the knee and walk normally. Most do not even need to use crutches, though some swelling and discomfort is normal, and most patients will require a few visits of physical therapy to regain full strength and function of their knee.
Tears in the outer ⅓ are far less common, but they can occur, usually with a sudden injury in young people. After these surgeries, a brace and crutches are required, usually with two weeks on crutches and an additional four weeks with just the brace. Physical therapy is also required after these repairs, and returning to any twisting, pivoting, jumping and sports activities is permitted after 4-6 months.