A torn meniscus refers to a tear in the cartilage that is located on top of the tibia to allow the femur to glide smoothly when there is movement in the knee joint.
Tears are typically described by where they are situated anatomically in the C-shape as well as by their appearance (for instance, longitudinal, parrot beak, “bucket handle” tear, and transverse).
A physical exam may predict whether it is the lateral or medial meniscus that has sustained damaged. At the same time, a diagnostic procedure, such as an MRI or arthroscopic surgery, can locate the particular part of the cartilage anatomy that is damaged as well as show how it appears.
Board certified orthopedic surgeons Dr. Steven C. Thomas and Dr. Gregory T. Bigler provide procedures for the knee and shoulder to patients in Las Vegas, Nevada as well as Greater Pahrump, Bullhead City, Lake Havasu, Mesquite, NV, and surrounding locations.
What Causes a Meniscus to Tear?
A sudden stop or forceful twist can cause the femur’s end to grind into the top of the tibia. This can pinch and potentially tear the cartilage of the meniscus.
This type of knee injury can also develop with kneeling or deep squatting, particularly when lifting a heavy weight. Meniscus tear injuries usually occur during athletic activities, particularly in contact sports such as hockey and football.
Movements that warrant pivoting and sudden stops, in sports such as basketball, tennis, and golf, can also damage the meniscus. The sports injury does not have to occur during a game. It may also occur in practice, where the same movements cause meniscus damage.
Aging increases the risk of developing a torn meniscus as the cartilage starts to slowly wear out, losing its blood flow and resilience. Correlating with this, increasing body weight also puts more pressure on the meniscus.
Meniscus tear treatment will depend on its location, severity, and underlying disease within the knee joint. The unique circumstances of the patient may also impact the treatment options.
It is usually possible to treat meniscus tears conservatively in a non-surgical manner using anti-inflammatory drugs and physical therapy rehabilitation to strengthen muscles surrounding the knees and prevent joint instability.
Very often, that is all that a patient requires. Patients who participate in sport or whose work is physically challenging may need immediate surgery to continue their activity. A majority of patients fall between the two extremes, and the decision to use conservative treatments or proceed with a surgery will depend on their specific condition.
Torn Meniscus due to Injury
The initial steps in treatment following acute injury typically include ice, rest, compression, and elevation (RICE). This may help ease the swelling that develop with a torn meniscus. Anti-inflammatory drugs, such as naproxen (Aleve) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), may help relieve pain and swelling.
In case conservative therapy is ineffective, surgery may be a consideration. Knee arthroscopy enables the orthopedic surgeon to examine the cartilage tear and potentially repair it. In a surgical procedure, the goal is to preserve as much cartilage as possible.
Surgical procedures include:
- Meniscal repair: Sewing the torn edges together
- Partial meniscectomy: Trimming away the damaged area, and smoothing the injured region
- Total meniscectomy: Eliminating the entire meniscus, if that is considered appropriate
Another surgical option to promote new cartilage growth is microfracture surgery. In the procedure, the surgeon will drill small holes into the surface of the bone. This encourages articular but not meniscus cartilage development. The articular cartilage that grows due to this surgery is not as robust or as thick as the original meniscus cartilage.
Board certified orthopedic surgeons at the Thomas and Bigler Knee & Shoulder Institute receive patients from Las Vegas, Nevada as well as Greater Pahrump, Bullhead City, Lake Havasu, Mesquite, NV, and nearby areas for knee and shoulder procedures.
If you would like to schedule an appointment or learn more about the Knee and Shoulder Institute procedures & treatments performed by Las Vegas, Nevada board-certified surgeons Steven C. Thomas, MD and Gregory T. Bigler, MD. Contact the office today click here.
Serving patients from and around greater Las Vegas, Lake Havasu, Bullhead City, Mesquite, Pahrump, Nevada.