What is a Meniscus?
A meniscus is a shock-absorbing pad of cartilage in the knee that supports and protects the bone in the knee joint. There are two menisci in each knee between the thigh bone and the shin bone, one on the inner edge (medial) and the other on the outer edge of the knee (lateral). They function to stabilize the knee, and equally distribute one’s weight on the knee bones.
The inner 2/3rds of a meniscus have a poor blood supply, which limits the body’s natural healing abilities. This it is called the white zone. Tears in the white zone are generally treated by repairing the torn potion repair and involves trimming and suturing the meniscus to the bone. Tears in the outer 1/3rd, called the red zone, have a good blood supply and may heal on their own with conservative management. Meniscus tears are common knee injuries especially in athletes. The goal of treatment is to preserve the meniscus when it is repairable.
What are the common causes of a meniscus injury?
Traumatic meniscus tears may be the result of an athletic injury and/or heavy lifting. These tears are the direct result of twisting or over flexing the knee joint. More than 50% of people with an ACL tear also have a tear of the medial meniscus. A degenerative meniscus tear may develop with wear and tear over time and if not repaired can contribute to development of knee osteoarthritis.
Your surgeon will determine whether surgical repair is necessary depending on the location and severity of the tear, your activity level, symptoms and age. However, when an ACL is torn and requires reconstruction, but the meniscus is intact, a delay of ACL surgical reconstruction of more than three months can increase the risk of meniscus injury.
Rehabilitation and recovery
The goal of rehabilitation is to rebuild knee strength, mobility and stability. The length of rehabilitation and recovery varies based upon the extent of the injury, the type of surgery, and the patient’s goals.
If the meniscus is repaired the procedure is usually minimally invasive arthroscopy, and rehabilitation will be delayed for three weeks to allow for initial healing. With rehabilitation full recovery can take 3- 6 months to return to play. When a meniscus tear is treated conservatively, recovery can take up to two months.
Athletes commonly have surgical repair along with ACL reconstruction, but when a patient is older and not very active, they may choose to avoid surgery but there remains a risk of instability.
Center’s for Advanced Orthopaedics team of sports, rehabilitation and surgical professionals offer next level skilled performance training, athletic development training, surgical guidance, and rehabilitative care as part of a holistic care program to get you back to the sports you love better than ever.