Meniscal Tear

One of the most commonly injured parts of the knee, the meniscus, is a wedge-like rubbery cushion located where the major bones of the leg connect. Meniscal cartilage curves like the letter C at the inside and outside of each knee. A strong stabilizing tissue, the meniscus helps the knee joint carry weight, glide, and turn in many directions. It also keeps your femur (thighbone) and tibia (shinbone) from grinding against each other.

Meniscal Tear

Athletes  in  contact  and  noncontact  sports  may  tear  the  meniscus  by  twisting  the  knee,  pivoting, cutting, or decelerating. In athletes, meniscal tears often happen in combination with other injuries such as a torn anterior cruciate ligament. People can injure the meniscus without any trauma as the cartilage weakens and wears thin over time, setting the stage for a degenerative tear.

Illustration of the location and the normal appearance of the meniscus and four common types of meniscal tears.

Symptoms

You might experience a “popping” sensation when you tear the meniscus. Most people can still walk on  the  injured  knee  and  many  athletes  keep  playing  with  a  meniscal  tear.  When  symptoms  of inflammation  set  in,  the  knee  typically  feels  painful  and  tight.  For  several  days  you  will  likely experience:

1   Stiffness and swelling

2   Tenderness in the joint line

3   Collection of fluid (“water on the knee”)

4   Catching or locking of your knee

5   Knee buckling

Without treatment, a fragment of the meniscus may loosen and drift into the joint, causing it to slip, pop, or lock. The knee gets stuck, often at a 45-degree angle, until it is manually moved or otherwise manipulated.  If  you  think  you  have  a  meniscal tear,  see your  doctor  right  away for  diagnosis  and individualized treatment

Treatment

Nonsurgical Treatment

Nonsurgical  treatment  follows  the  basic  RICE  formula:  rest,  ice,  compression,  and  elevation, combined with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications for pain. If your knee is stable and does

not lock, this nonsurgical treatment may be all you need. Blood vessels feed the outer edges of the

meniscus, giving that part the potential to heal on its own. Small tears on the outer edges often heal themselves with rest.

Surgical Treatment

If your meniscal tear does not heal on its own and your knee becomes painful, stiff, or locked, you may need surgical repair. Depending on the type of tear, whether you also have an injured anterior

cruciate ligament, your age, and other factors, your doctor uses an arthroscope to trim off damaged

pieces of meniscus, or might suture it.

Usually, patient is allowed to weight bear as tolerated immediately after the procedure. On occasions, crutches are recommended and/or brace is used to immobilize the knee after surgery. The complete recovery may take from 3 weeks up to 3 months, depending on the type of surgery and other existing lesions. You must complete a course of rehabilitation exercises before gradually resuming your activity.