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Meniscus Repair vs. Removal: Making Informed Decisions for Knee Health

Posted on: June 28th, 2024 by Our Team

The meniscus, a vital structure in the knee joint, serves as a cushion and stabilizer during movement. However, injuries to the meniscus are common, often resulting from sports activities, accidents, or degenerative changes. When faced with a meniscus injury, individuals are often confronted with the decision between meniscus repair and removal (meniscectomy). Both procedures have their benefits and drawbacks, and understanding the differences between them is crucial for making informed decisions regarding knee health.

Meniscus Repair: Meniscus repair aims to preserve as much of the meniscus tissue as possible, restoring its function and stability within the knee joint. This procedure is typically recommended for younger patients with tears located in the peripheral (outer) region of the meniscus, where there is a good blood supply. Several techniques can be used for meniscus repair, including suturing the torn edges together, using anchors, or employing novel biological approaches.

Benefits of Meniscus Repair:

  1. Preserves Meniscus Function: Repairing the meniscus maintains its role in shock absorption and load distribution within the knee joint, reducing the risk of long-term degenerative changes.
  2. Faster Recovery: Compared to meniscectomy, meniscus repair often results in quicker recovery times and better long-term outcomes, especially in younger, active individuals.
  3. Reduced Risk of Osteoarthritis: By preserving the natural structure of the meniscus, repair may help mitigate the risk of developing osteoarthritis in the affected knee over time.

Challenges of Meniscus Repair:

  1. Limited Indications: Meniscus repair is not suitable for all types of tears, particularly those located in the avascular (inner) zone of the meniscus where blood supply is poor.
  2. Longer Rehabilitation: While recovery from meniscus repair is generally faster than meniscectomy, it still requires a period of rehabilitation, including physical therapy and activity modification.
  3. Potential for Failure: Despite advancements in surgical techniques, meniscus repair may fail to heal completely in some cases, necessitating revision surgery or alternative treatments.

Meniscectomy (Meniscus Removal): Meniscectomy involves the partial or complete removal of the torn portion of the meniscus. This procedure is often recommended for older individuals or those with complex tears that are unlikely to heal with repair.

Benefits of Meniscectomy:

  1. Symptom Relief: Removing the damaged portion of the meniscus can alleviate pain, swelling, and mechanical symptoms such as locking or catching in the knee joint.
  2. Minimally Invasive: Meniscectomy is a relatively straightforward arthroscopic procedure, resulting in minimal trauma to surrounding tissues and faster recovery compared to open surgery.
  3. Broad Applicability: Meniscectomy can be performed for a wide range of meniscus tears, including complex or degenerative tears that may not be amenable to repair.

Challenges of Meniscectomy:

  1. Increased Risk of Osteoarthritis: Removing a significant portion of the meniscus can disrupt the biomechanics of the knee joint, leading to accelerated degenerative changes and an increased risk of osteoarthritis.
  2. Long-term Complications: While meniscectomy provides short-term symptom relief, it may lead to complications such as persistent pain, instability, or limited range of motion in the affected knee over time.
  3. Loss of Meniscus Function: Once the meniscus is removed, its shock-absorbing and stabilizing functions are compromised, potentially impacting long-term joint health and function.

In summary, the decision between meniscus repair and removal depends on various factors, including the type and location of the tear, the patient’s age, activity level, and overall knee health. While meniscus repair offers the advantage of preserving the natural structure and function of the meniscus, meniscectomy may be necessary in certain situations to alleviate symptoms and restore knee function. Ultimately, consulting with a qualified orthopedic surgeon and weighing the risks and benefits of each treatment option is essential for achieving the best possible outcomes in meniscus injury management.

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