Meniscus Tears: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment Options

Meniscus tears are among the most common knee injuries, affecting both athletes and the general population. Essential for stabilizing and cushioning the knee joint, the meniscus plays a crucial role in knee health and functionality. Damage to this vital component can result in pain, swelling, and limited mobility. This article provides an in-depth look at meniscus tears, covering everything from causes and symptoms to diagnostic procedures and treatment options.
A person clutching their painful knee.

The Meniscus: An overview

The meniscus is a C-shaped cartilage between the thigh bone (femur) and the shin bone (tibia) in the knee joint.

It serves as a crucial shock absorber within the knee joint and ensures smooth and pain-free movement.

Meniscus tears are a frequent and significant injury. They are especially prevalent among athletes and individuals aged 50 and above.

The risk of a meniscus tear is notably high during sports or physical activities. Activities that involve sudden twisting or turning on a bent knee are particularly risky.

These rapid and unexpected movements can put immense strain on the meniscus. This strain can lead to potential tears, resulting in pain and limited mobility.

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Meniscus Tears

Meniscus tears typically cause knee pain, swelling, and increased discomfort during physical activity. Weight-bearing activities can intensify these symptoms.

Stiffness and limited mobility may occur, sometimes preventing full knee extension. The knee might "lock" in one position, unable to move.

Some individuals experience knee instability, feeling as if their knee could give way or collapse.

Treatments for a Meniscus Tear

Treatment options for a meniscus tear depend on several factors. Patient age, tear type, and symptom severity all play a role.

Non-operative treatments are often the first approach. This includes physical therapy, anti-inflammatory drugs, and controlled exercise.

These methods are particularly common for degenerative tears in older patients. They are applied when mechanical symptoms are not present [1].

If non-operative treatments aren’t successful, surgery may be considered.

Surgical Options for Meniscus Tears

There are various surgical treatments for a meniscus tear. One example is meniscectomy, which involves removing part of the meniscus.

Another option is meniscus repair, which is a surgical procedure designed to preserve the meniscus. It involves stitching the torn edges back together.

Meniscal repair is typically suited for younger patients. It's applied when the tear is deemed reparable.

In rare cases, a meniscal transplant may be an option.

Meniscus Procedures and Osteoarthritis

Choosing the right treatment requires considering the risk of osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease that can lead to pain, stiffness, and reduced mobility.

A notable study in Sweden involving 2500 patients reported a 25-50% reduced risk of osteoarthritis with meniscus repair compared to meniscectomy [2]. This makes meniscus repair a preferred surgical option for many.

Removing the meniscus through meniscectomy alters the knee's natural mechanics and puts extra stress on the cartilage. This can lead to degeneration and a higher risk of osteoarthritis.

In contrast, meniscus repair aims to restore the meniscus's normal function. This helps maintain the knee's natural biomechanics, subsequently lowering the risk of osteoarthritis.

Meniscus repair isn't universally applicable. Its feasibility depends on the tear's characteristics.

Key factors include the location, size, and type of the meniscus tear. A low blood supply to the affected area can hinder the possibility of repair.

Moreover, meniscus repair is technically more challenging than meniscectomy. It might not be suitable for every patient, such as those with horizontal meniscus tears [3].

In instances where repair isn't possible, opting for a meniscectomy might be the only available route.

Conclusion

In conclusion, meniscus repair is generally considered to carry a smaller risk of the patient developing osteoarthritis compared to meniscectomy. However, the decision between meniscus repair and removal should be made on an individual basis, taking into account the patient's age, activity level, and the characteristics of the meniscus tear. A qualified orthopaedic surgeon can help guide patients in this decision.

Disclaimer

This article was not written by a medical professional and does not offer health advice. The purpose of this article is to demonstrate the usage of MediSearch, an AI-powered search engine, providing science-based answers to medical queries. Always consult a medical professional regarding your condition.

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