The meniscus is the cartilage tissue that cushions the knee. This crescent-shaped piece of cartilage protects the top of the shin bone from rubbing against the bottom of the femur (thigh bone). If you experience a torn meniscus, the team at Marin Orthopedics & Sports Medicine in Novato, CA, can help you form a treatment plan.
Cases of Meniscal Injuries
Meniscus tears are often caused by a sudden twisting or squatting motion of the knee. Athletes often experience meniscal tears, sometimes because of contact with another player, but not always.
Not all meniscal tears are the result of sudden movements. Older patients and people with joint problems are more likely to experience degenerative meniscal tears. As cartilage ages, it can become weak and thin, making it more susceptible to tears. When the meniscus is already weak, simply getting up from a seated position can be enough to cause a tear.
Treating a Torn Meniscus
Different types of meniscal tears require different forms of treatment, and your doctor will help you choose the right option for your injury.
Small tears on the outer edge of the meniscus can sometimes heal themselves given enough rest. Your doctor may recommend the RICE method — rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Larger tears to the outer meniscus may require surgery for the knee to return to full pre-injury function.
Tears to the inner portion of the cartilage, however, do not have much access to blood and the body’s natural healing channels. These tears may require surgery to trim away or suture torn cartilage. Loose cartilage in the joint can cause the knee to lock or slip out of place, causing pain and limited mobility. Since this inner part of the cartilage cannot heal itself, surgery is not always successful, and you should talk to your doctor about your options before proceeding with surgery.
Types of Meniscus Surgery
Many meniscal tears can be diagnosed and treated through arthroscopic surgery. Knee arthroscopy uses a tiny camera to view the inside of the knee, preventing the need for open surgery. Once the problem area is identified, the surgeon can repair the injury using tiny tools inserted through small incisions around the knee. Meniscectomy, where the torn cartilage is trimmed away, is often done arthroscopically.
For more serious tears, open surgery may be necessary. Usually, these meniscus repair procedures involve suturing the torn cartilage back together. The right procedure for you will largely depend on your condition, age, overall health, and goals for treatment.
No matter what sort of surgery you have, you will likely have to keep the knee still for a while during recovery using a brace or a cast. Physical therapy or other exercises will also be important to prevent scar tissue from forming. Full recovery can take anywhere between a few weeks and a few months, depending on the severity of the tear. Many patients can return to their preinjury abilities with proper treatment and rehabilitation.
Treatment of a Meniscal Tear in Novato, CA
If you or a loved one experiences a meniscal tear or another knee injury, give Marin Orthopedics & Sports Medicine a call at (415) 492-1600. Our orthopedic surgeons have years of experience treating meniscus injuries, and one of our staff members will be happy to help you schedule a consultation appointment.