What is the function of the meniscus?
The knee has two menisci (medial and lateral), which function as shock absorbers to reduce the stress on the surface cartilage. The medial meniscus is larger and on the inside of the knee, while the lateral meniscus is more mobile and on the outside of the knee.
I was diagnosed with a torn meniscus. Do I need surgery?
There are two types of meniscus tears: degenerative and traumatic. Degenerative tears occur over time in the setting of arthritis, due to wear and tear as the tissues become more calcified and brittle. These tears can occur without a specific injury or fall and typically involve the medial meniscus. Traumatic tears usually occur in younger patients (< 40 years of age) without arthritis due to a fall, twisting injury, or other similar mechanism. These tears can occur in conjunction with an ACL injury.
Not all meniscus tears require surgical treatment, especially degenerative tears in older patients (> 50 years of age). These tears are very common and usually respond well to conservative treatment for arthritis. Tears that cause mechanical symptoms or those that have not improved with conservative treatment are amenable to knee arthroscopy.
What is the treatment for a torn meniscus?
When the meniscus is torn, the torn portion is unable to participate in load bearing and therefore the overall shock absorbing function is impaired. Surgery is performed arthroscopically and aimed at either repairing the meniscus using sutures and anchors or removing the torn portion. The decision to perform repair vs debridement is based on a number of factors:
- Patient age
- Chronicity of the tear
- Type and location of tear
- Degree of arthritis
- Any additional injuries (i.e. ACL tear)
- Tissue quality at time of arthroscopy
Dr. Garabekyan will discuss these factors in helping you decide which treatment option is best for you.