The meniscus is a C-shaped piece of tough cartilage located in the knee, that acts as a shock absorber between the shinbone and the thighbone. There are two minisci within each knee. The meniscus on the inside part of the knee is known as the medial meniscus and the meniscus located on the outside of the knee is referred to as the lateral meniscus.
A meniscus tear may be the result of an activity that forcefully twists or rotates the knee. A torn meniscus is a common knee injury that may be caused by playing sports, or a traumatic injury, and most frequently occurs when the knee joint is bent and the knee is then twisted. Torn menisci are common in athletes, but in some cases this condition may occur in older adults whose cartilage has worn away, as a result of many years of wear and tear of the joint.
Most individuals who have torn their meniscus experience a popping or clicking sensation when the injury occurs. Additional symptoms may include pain, swelling and stiffness in the knee. A torn meniscus may also be accompanied by joint that frequently locks in place and the inability to completely straighten the knee.
Treatment for a meniscus tear often begins with conservative methods such as rest, ice or over-the-counter pain medication. If these treatments are not effective and symptoms continue, meniscus repair surgery may be recommended.
Meniscus repair is an arthroscopic surgery performed by an orthopedic surgeon to remove the torn segment of the meniscus. The torn edges are then sutured together, which allows them to heal properly. Recovery from meniscus repair surgery can take several months of immobilization and the use of crutches. A physical therapy program is also effective after surgery to strengthen muscles and help the patient regain full mobility.
When a meniscus is torn due to injury or overuse, it can often be repaired with surgery that involves suturing the damaged ends together. However, in cases where the meniscus is extremely damaged and cannot be repaired, it may need to be removed completely and replaced with donor cartilage. This type of transplant can provide cushioning to the joint and prevent the bones and other structures from rubbing together, alleviating considerable pain.
A meniscal transplant is typically much more successful in a younger, active individual who has damage due to an injury. Candidates for a meniscal transplant may include individuals who are physically fit, have stable knees and do not have arthritis. Older patients, especially those with osteoarthritis, are often better candidates for a joint replacement surgery instead of a meniscal transplant.
This meniscal transplant is commonly performed as an outpatient procedure. The meniscal transplant procedure is performed arthroscopically, with tiny surgical instruments inserted through very small incisions. The arthoscope is inserted into the knee through a small incision. The meniscus and any remaining tissue are removed from the knee. The donor meniscus is attached to the shinbone and sutured in place. The incision is then closed and bandages are placed over the wound.