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Health Library

Meniscal Tear

What Is the Meniscus?

The meniscus is a C-shaped piece of cartilage that can be found between the femur (thigh bone) and tibia (shin bone). The meniscus can be found in the lateral (outside) or medial (inside) part of the knee. The meniscus acts as a shock absorber and helps to cushion the joint and keep it stable.


What Is a Meniscus Tear?

Meniscal tears are common injuries. These types of injury can be acute or chronic in nature. A meniscus tear is a common problem in athletes following an injury or in older patients as a result of the degenerative (aging) process.


Common Causes

A meniscus tear can occur during exercise or sports-related activities when the body turns or twists while the foot remains in place. The twisting within the knee can tear the meniscus. In older patients, degenerative meniscal tears can occur as cartilage wears away over time and may tear with a simple trauma. Once a meniscus is torn, the knee may become painful and swollen after the injury. You may also feel the knee lock.


Diagnosis

To receive a diagnosis, a qualified musculoskeletal expert will first take a medical history and conduct a physical exam. An x-ray or MRI may be required.


Common Treatments

Treatment depends on the individual patient. An orthopedic surgeon will help decide the treatment plan after the examination. Options include non-surgical and surgical treatments.

Non-Surgical Treatments
Treatment varies from patient to patient, and can include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines to reduce pain and swelling. Other options include rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Physical therapy may be important in your recovery to get back to normal function.

Surgical Treatments
The common surgical treatment is arthroscopic surgery. An orthopedic surgeon will use specialized instruments and a fiber-optic camera which are inserted through small incisions. Most patients will undergo a partial meniscectomy. During the arthroscopic procedure the torn portion of the meniscus is removed. Depending on the patient’s age and the location of the tear, the surgeon may decide to repair it.


Rehabilitation

The amount of weight you can bear on your leg, the length of time using crutches, and the duration of physical therapy will vary with each person and depend on the type of procedure done.

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