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Meniscus Tear/Meniscus Injury

Expert Knee Surgeons in Orange County

What is a Meniscus Tear?

Meniscus tears are common knee injuries that can occur from forcefully twisting or rotating the knee, especially while putting the full weight of the body on the knee.

The meniscus is a c-shaped piece of cartilage found in each knee between the thighbone (femur) and the shinbone (tibia). They act as shock absorbers and cushion and stabilize the knee joints to protect the bones from wear and tear. Pain, swelling, and stiffness are immediate upon tearing the meniscus, and many also experience a more limited range of motion and difficulty fully extending the knee.

Torn Meniscus Symptoms

If you have a torn meniscus, you may notice the following:

  • Knee pain, especially from twisting or rotating
  • A popping or clicking sensation
  • Intermittent swelling or stiffness of the knee joint
  • Inability to fully bend or straighten the leg (limited range of motion)
  • Feeling a locking or catching sensation in the affected knee
  • Knee instability and feeling as though it will give way
  • Mobility difficulties

Causes of a Meniscus Tear

Meniscus tears usually occur from physical activities in which you forcefully twist or rotate your knee, such as pivoting or sudden stops and turns, and they are common injuries among athletes who play sports such as basketball, soccer, baseball, skiing or volleyball. Meniscus tears can also occur from degeneration of the tissue, which occurs in patients with arthritis. As we age, the knee cartilage weakens and is less resilient, meaning a torn meniscus is possible without a traumatic injury. A torn meniscus can happen to an older patient simply by stepping on an uneven surface. Having a high body weight can also put strain on the meniscus.

Diagnosing a Meniscus Tear

Your doctor will physically examine the knee and check for swelling before testing your range of motion. You may also need imaging studies such as an X-ray or MRI scan to assess the damage and confirm the diagnosis. A knee X-ray will assess knee alignment, the presence of calcifications within the meniscus, and check for signs of arthritis. MRI is used to check the soft tissues of the knee and can determine the exact location and pattern of the meniscus tear.

Nonsurgical Treatments for a Torn Meniscus

Most people who tear their meniscus can return to full activity after conservative treatment, depending on the size and location of the tear. Your knee surgeon may suggest some of the following nonsurgical treatments:

  • Taking a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or aspirin in order to relieve knee pain and swelling.
  • Following the R.I.C.E. protocol (rest, ice, compression and elevation), in the initial days following the injury.

If locking, or being unable to fully bend or straighten your leg without pain or if your swelling doesn’t subside after a few days, you may have a more serious torn meniscus and should see your knee surgeon right away as you may require meniscus surgery.

Surgical Treatments for a Torn Meniscus

The goal of meniscus repair surgery is to preserve healthy meniscus tissue which requires a blood supply to properly heal. Many types of meniscus tears occur in a region of the meniscus without adequate blood supply for healing. Depending on the size and location of your meniscus tear your knee surgeon may recommend one of the following surgical procedures to repair your torn meniscus.

Types of Meniscus Surgery Include:

  • Meniscectomy: A meniscectomy involves the removal of the damaged meniscus tissue, has good short-term results but may lead to the development of arthritis ten to twenty years later.
  • Partial meniscectomy: A partial meniscectomy involves your knee surgeon trimming and removing the damaged cartilage and leaving the healthy meniscus tissue in place.
  • Meniscus repair: With a meniscus repair, your knee surgeon sews the torn pieces of cartilage back together so the meniscus can heal on its own. This procedure has good results, but has a longer recovery time than meniscectomy and is limited to roughly 10% of tears which are amenable to repair.
  • Meniscus replacement: A meniscus replacement is considered for young, active patients who have previously had most of their meniscus removed, and develop pain in the area without having advanced degenerative changes to the articular (gliding surface) cartilage.

See a Knee Surgeon today to treat your Meniscus Tear
Call Newport Orthopedic Institute at (949) 722-7038.

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