When is a Meniscus Tear Repairable?
According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, one of the most common knee injuries is a tear in the meniscus. These rubbery pieces of cartilage act as shock absorbers in the knee to cushion and stabilize the knee joint. There are two menisci in each of your knees: one on the inside of the knee and one on the outer side.
Treatment of a meniscus tear depends on a number of factors, including the type of tear, its size and where the tear is located on the meniscus. Most meniscus tears result either from trauma or are degenerative. Traumatic tears come about from a twisting of the knee, often while engaged in sports and physical activity. Degenerative tears can occur as the body ages and tissue gradually breaks down over time.
The outer one-third of the meniscus has a rich supply of blood flow, which is important for any part of the body to heal. The inner two-thirds, however, have little to no blood flow. Nutrients from blood are necessary for the body to heal naturally, so when there are tears in the inner part of the meniscus, surgical trimming and removal of the torn piece is generally the best option.
Tears in the meniscus that are located near the outer edge of the knee are typically the result of trauma and are longitudinal – basically following parallel to the long side of the meniscus. This makes these injuries the best candidates for surgical repair.
Arthroscopic surgery for such tears can be very successful at repairing the damage. This is a minimally invasive treatment, as only a few small incisions in the knee are needed. A miniature camera is inserted in one incision, and surgical instruments are inserted in the others, allowing the surgery to all take place within the knee. The tear is closed by stitching the torn pieces together.
Recovery time from a meniscus repair is longer than for surgery where part of the meniscus is removed because the tissue must heal together, requiring 3-4 months away from sports. However, you can expect to fully return to your previous level of activity once healing is complete.
If you have sustained a knee injury or are experiencing knee pain, contact us at Missouri Orthopedics and Advanced Sports Medicine. Dr. Irvine has extensive experience in treating knee pain and injuries, and is trained in the most advanced techniques in arthroscopic surgery.