Meniscus Tear

A meniscus tear is one of the most frequently occurring cartilage injuries of the knee that can be quite painful and debilitating. Although a meniscus tear is especially common in athletes, anyone can experience such an injury.

Our board-certified orthopaedic surgeons at Seaview have extensive experience in treating a meniscus tear. They, along with our compassionate staff, are here to help if you experience a torn meniscus.

What is a Meniscus?

The meniscus is a C-shaped wedge of cartilage that lies between the thighbone (femur) and the shinbone (tibia) in the knee joint, acting as a shock absorber.

There are two menisci in the knee: one in the inner (medial) side of the knee and one in the outer (lateral) side of the knee. Injuries to either the medial meniscus or the lateral meniscus are common and are often referred to as “torn cartilage.”

Meniscus Tear Causes

The most common cause of a sudden (acute) meniscal tear in younger people is a combined loading and twisting injury to the knee. However, patients can experience a degenerative meniscus tear without any significant injury to the knee. Tears of the medial (inner) meniscus are more common than tears to the lateral (outer) meniscus.

Meniscal injuries are often associated with a ligament tear in the knee. When a person injures one of the main supporting ligaments of the knee, the knee can become unstable, increasing the chance of a meniscus tear.

Symptoms of a Meniscus Tear

When a meniscus is injured, the knee often becomes painful and/or swollen. The pain is usually made worse with certain movements, such as bending or twisting the knee. Some knee maneuvers may produce a “click,” “pop” or sharp pain, which is often localized to the medial or lateral joint line (the space between the thighbone and the shinbone).

If the torn piece of meniscus is large, it may cause the knee to catch, lock, or give way. Catching occurs when the torn meniscus fragment briefly lodges between the bones then works its way out. If the fragment does not work its way out, the knee will remain “locked” and will not fully bend or straighten. Locking can be brief (lasting seconds or minutes) or persistent (lasting weeks). Giving way occurs when the torn piece of meniscus slips out of place, which causes pain and reflex relaxation of the thigh muscles. When the muscles relax, the knee “gives way” or “gives out.”

Diagnosis & Treatment of a Meniscus Tear

Our orthopedic surgeons typically diagnose a meniscus tear with a physical exam, as well as imaging tests to confirm the diagnosis and rule out other potential knee injuries. X-rays cannot detect meniscal injuries, but are useful to rule out osteoarthritis, loose pieces of bone, or a broken bone, conditions that may mimic meniscus tear symptoms. Occasionally, an imaging test called Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is required to confirm the diagnosis.



Nonsurgical Treatment

A small meniscus tear that occurs on the outer edge of the meniscus may not require surgical treatment to heal, as this area has a rich blood supply that helps promote healing. Nonsurgical treatment of meniscus injuries may include activity modification, ice, medication to reduce pain and/or swelling, and physical therapy.

At Seaview, we offer physical therapy on-site at all six of our office locations for the convenience of our patients.

Surgical Treatment

If a torn meniscus does not heal with nonsurgical treatment, and pain, swelling or intermittent catching persists, arthroscopic surgery may be necessary.

Arthroscopic surgery allows your surgeon to perform the surgery without the need for large incisions. A small camera called an arthroscope is inserted through one small incision, allowing your orthopedic surgeon to view the inside of the knee on a monitor. Operating instruments are inserted through additional small incisions to complete the surgery. Ultimately, these smaller incisions allow for quicker recovery times and less pain after surgery.

Surgery for a meniscus tear can be approached in a few different ways. Our orthopedic surgeons will explain all of your options to help you make the best decision for your needs. In some cases, the damaged meniscus tissue may be simply trimmed away in a procedure called a meniscectomy. In other cases, the torn meniscus can be repaired by suturing it back together.

Recovery

After meniscus surgery, most patients are able to return home the same day. Medications may be given to help with pain while you recover. Patients will also work with our physical therapists after surgery to improve mobility and strength in the knee.

Most patients are able to resume all normal activities once they have fully recovered. Full recovery times can vary based on the type of procedure. Patients who had a meniscectomy often recover within 3 to 4 weeks. Patients who had a meniscus repair procedure will have a longer recovery time, typically about 3 months, to allow the meniscus to heal back together.

Meniscus Tear Treatment in Central New Jersey and Jersey Shore

A meniscus tear is among the injuries we frequently treat at Seaview Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine. We have several board-certified orthopedic surgeons with expertise in treating a meniscus tear. If you would like to schedule an appointment with one of our orthopedic surgeons, please call our office at (732) 660-6200. You can also use our online appointment scheduling service.