Treatment for Meniscus Tears in Kirkland, WA
What is the Meniscus?
The meniscus is a pad of specialized cartilage that is located between the femur and tibia bones in the knee joint. There are two menisci in the knee – one on the inside of the knee (medial meniscus) and one on the outside of the knee (lateral meniscus). The meniscus has several functions including: acting as a shock absorber or cushion, distributing load across the knee, decreasing friction, and adding to the stability of the knee.
As you age, your cartilage can wear down especially if you have arthritis. In fact, more than 40 percent of people 65 or older report a torn meniscus.
Tearing a meniscus is also very common while playing sports, due to sudden motion or direction changes.
A tear can be vertical longitudinal, vertical radial, horizontal, oblique, or complex.
Meniscus tears typically occur as a result of twisting injuries to the knee. They can be caused by a traumatic injury, but also can occur from a subtle injury or just a twisting motion during daily activities. The symptoms of a meniscus tear include pain, swelling, locking, and inability to completely straighten the knee joint. An MRI is frequently obtained to diagnose a meniscus tear.
How Do I Know When My Meniscus is Torn?
When your meniscus is torn, you may:
- Feel a pop when your meniscus is torn.
- Experience pain in the knee joint
- Experience swelling or stiffness, locking knee
- Be unable to bend or straighten
What is the Treatment for a Torn Meniscus?
If not treated, part of the meniscus may come loose and slip into the joint. Untreated meniscus tears can increase in size and lead to complications, such as arthritis. If you have knee pain, you will want to talk to your doctor as soon as possible. There are several options for treatment, depending on the severity of the tear.
Non-surgical treatment for tears that can heal on their own may include:
- Physical therapy
- RICE: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation
- Anti-inflammatory medications
Treatment of meniscal tears depends on several factors including the type of tear, the location of the tear, and the activity level of the patient. Some patients can be treated nonoperatively. If surgery is necessary, minimally invasive arthroscopic techniques are used to either trim out the torn portion of the meniscus (partial meniscectomy) or to repair the meniscus.
Meniscus Surgeries and Repair
Meniscus tears can be relatively painless, especially when they are small and in less active patients. Larger meniscus tears can be quite painful, however. They can lead to locking, swelling, pain, and can lead to an increase in size of the meniscus over time – especially in the active patient.
The meniscus surgeries usually involve trimming out the torn portion of the meniscus. This is known as a partial meniscectomy. During this procedure, only the portion of meniscus that is torn is removed and the healthy remaining meniscus is preserved. The size and configuration of the tear determine how much meniscus is removed.
The meniscus portion of the knee is an important structure. It contributes to the stability of the knee, provides cushioning, distributes forces over a larger area, and reduces contact stress to help preserve the articular cartilage of the knee. If the meniscus is removed completely this leads to relatively rapid arthritis. Small meniscus tears can easily be removed with little or no measurable impact on the knee. However, the loss of large sections of meniscus can lead to pain, swelling, and long-term arthritic changes. For these reasons, when possible, meniscus repairs are preferred over meniscectomy.
In order for the meniscus to be repaired and heal successfully, certain criteria must be met. The tear must also be near the outer edge of the meniscus so that it has a blood supply to allow for healing. The tear must also be in a configuration that allows for repair.
Minimally invasive arthroscopic techniques are utilized to repair the meniscus. Patients who undergo a meniscal repair must be more cautious postoperatively, and typically have more restrictions, than those undergoing a partial meniscectomy.
Losing a large portion of, or an entire meniscus, can lead to pain and early arthritis. Because of this in some patients who have had nearly their entire meniscus removed, are candidates for meniscus transplant. This involves placing a meniscus from a cadaver into a patients knee and securing it. This provides some of the cushioning back to the knee and may help with pain and delay arthritis.
Schedule An Appointment
The specific treatment method utilized will largely depend on the type and severity of your individual injury. It is important to consult with an orthopedist to discuss your treatment options. As a fellowship-trained board-certified orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Camille Clinton delivers state-of-the-art treatment to patients experiencing meniscus injuries. Call (425) 899-4810 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Clinton today!