When Is Knee Surgery the Best Option for a Meniscus Tear?

 When Is Knee Surgery the Best Option for a Meniscus Tear?

Being active can keep you fit, strong, and healthy, but it also raises your risk of injury. Whether you’re a serious athlete, a recreational sports enthusiast, or a weekend warrior, you could get hurt almost anytime you step on the court, sprint across the field, or otherwise get in the game. 

One of the most common adverse effects of an active lifestyle is knee pain, and one of the most frequent causes of knee pain is a meniscus injury. Without treatment, a torn meniscus can create joint-limiting instability and set the stage for chronic knee problems like osteoarthritis.

When you see Dr. Ashish Rawal and our skilled team at OrthoTeam Clinic, you’re in good hands: After evaluating the nature and severity of your meniscus injury, we work diligently to facilitate optimal healing, restore joint function, and help you achieve a complete recovery. 

In some cases, the road to full meniscus recovery involves minimally invasive surgical treatment. Here, we explain when that might be the best treatment option. 

What is a meniscus, and why is it important? 

Your knee joint consists of three bones: thigh bone (femur), shinbone (tibia), and kneecap (patella). Between your thigh bone and your shinbone are two C-shaped cushions of strong yet flexible shock-absorbing cartilage called menisci.

Your knees’ meniscus pads have several functions, including:

Essentially, your knee joints require healthy, robust menisci to fully function.

How does a meniscus become injured or torn?

As critical as menisci are, they’re also prone to injury — specifically, tearing. A meniscus tear can develop during any activity that places your knee joint under excessive stress, or any movement that pushes it past its normal rotational limits. 

The moment it occurs, a meniscus tear may feel like something has popped inside your knee. Afterward, the affected knee joint may:

Most meniscus tears occur when the knee is bent, the foot is firmly planted, and the body is engaged in a twisting or turning movement. Athletes who play sports that require a lot of squatting, twisting, or positional changes have a greater risk of a torn meniscus. 

Older and less active adults are also vulnerable to meniscal injuries. Simply getting up from a squatting position can tear one of these knee joint pads. 

Why is it important to treat a torn meniscus?

Anytime you experience knee pain or the symptoms of a torn meniscus, it’s important to seek a prompt diagnosis and expert care. A meniscus tear that goes untreated can lead to prolonged pain and stiffness, possibly an even larger tear, or progression to an arthritic knee.

Luckily, many non-traumatic meniscus tears often become pain-free with conservative measures like rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE) therapy, knee orthotics, and physical therapy.

When does a torn meniscus require surgery? 

If diagnostic imaging reveals a moderate to severe tear in the outer edge (red zone) of your meniscus, sewing the tear together may be the most effective solution. Minimally invasive surgical repair of red zone meniscus tears has a high success rate. 

Our team may recommend surgical repair if you:

If the tear spreads from the red zone to the inner portion (white zone) of your meniscus, your decision may be more difficult. 

You could try a surgical repair, although white zone repairs don’t always heal, or you may opt for a different type of surgical treatment called a partial meniscectomy, which removes the torn section of the meniscus. 

Whether your meniscus injury is mild, moderate, or severe, our goal is to help you heal and — if possible — regain full functionality so you can continue to be fully active. In many cases, surgery is the best way to attain that goal; in many others, conservative care is all it takes.

If you have a painful knee injury, we can help. Call your nearest OrthoTeam Clinic location, in Madison or Stoughton, Wisconsin, today, or use the easy online booking feature to schedule a visit with one of our sports medicine experts.

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