Meniscus Tear of the Knee: Surgery, Treatment & Recovery Time
What is a Meniscus Tear?
The meniscus is a piece of cartilage between the thighbone and the shinbone that serves as a sort of cushion or stabiliser between them. There are two menisci in each knee. A Meniscus Tear can take place when your knee turns or twists very hard during sports or strenuous activity, particularly when your entire body weight is placed upon it at the time.
Meniscus Tears occur quite often and are described by their appearance, such as the flap tear, radial tear, and the “bucket handle”.
Dr Andrew Quoc Dutton is a Harvard fellowship-trained orthopaedic surgeon subspecialising in sports injuries, arthroscopic repairs, and cartilage regeneration. Visit our clinic at Mount Elizabeth Hospital, Singapore for a thorough assessment of your meniscal injury and a customised treatment plan.
If a Meniscus Tear is not treated, it can cause chronic Knee Pain and prevent a person from moving the knee as usual. The knee could become unstable and more prone to Knee Osteoarthritis. And if a piece of the torn meniscus breaks off and gets stuck in the knee joint, it could even cause the knee to lock or slip.
Frequently Asked Questions on Meniscus Tear
Athletes are especially prone to meniscus tears, particularly those who play football and other contact sports. Those who play basketball, tennis, volleyball and other sports that involve forceful, sudden stops, and pivoting or turns also have a higher risk.
People may also tear the meniscus by picking up heavy objects, kneeling or making deep squats. The meniscus may be torn at any age, but people become more likely to tear the meniscus as they age because the meniscus becomes weaker as a person grows older, and because of the stress placed upon the knees.
If an elderly person has a degenerative condition, the meniscus might tear even with a slight or no impact during a simple movement such as standing up from a chair.
Depending on how big the tear is and where exactly it’s positioned, treatment for a meniscus tear may be able to start without surgery. If the tear is located in the outer part of the meniscus, it may be able to heal by itself because it is well-supplied with blood and all the healing nutrients in it.
Arthritis-related tears, for example, generally improve after some time. In such cases, rest and avoiding high impact activities that involve pivoting or twisting the knee may be recommended.
Other non-surgical treatments for meniscus tears include using crutches to reduce the pressure on the knee, and icing and elevating the knee for 15 minutes at a time to reduce swelling and pain. An elastic bandage or sleeve may be worn over the knee to help keep the swelling down.
Over-the-counter pain medications like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs may also be taken. To strengthen the muscles around the knee and support the knee itself, physical therapy may likewise be able to help.
A patient may have recourse to meniscal surgery if the knee still hurts even after non-surgical treatments have been tried. If a tear takes place in the inner part of the meniscus, it is likely to need surgery because blood can’t reach this inner part due to the absence of blood vessels.
Knee Arthroscopy is a surgical treatment that may be used to trim the meniscus in a procedure called a Partial Meniscectomy. In Meniscal Repair, the torn meniscus is stitched back together, a technique which has been shown to be successful and suitable for younger patients with certain kinds of meniscus tears.
Taking NSAIDs to relieve the pain that accompanies meniscus tears may have side effects and increase the risk of ulcers and bleeding.
For meniscal surgery, the risks increases with age, as repair work is more effective for patients who are under age 30. Because the meniscus becomes more fragile with age, chances of successful meniscal surgery decrease for patients older than 30. There is also the possibility of the meniscus being ruptured or the meniscus may not be able to be repaired.
There may also be the usual complications that may arise from surgery such as anaesthesia-related cardiac or respiratory problems, infection, and nerve or blood vessel damage. The knee may also be fractured during the procedure, or become stiff and unstable afterwards, and additional procedures may be needed.
To find out whether you have a torn meniscus, the surgeon may observe how you walk and squat, as well as move your knee around. He may ask you how you injured your knee, how long the pain has been going on, or whether you heard or felt a loud “pop” at the time. Let the surgeon know whether any movements make your knee feel better or worse, or whether there was any swelling or instability.
An MRI is an effective way to diagnose a meniscus tear, as menisci don’t appear on X-rays because they are made of cartilage. Knee Arthroscopy might also be used to make the diagnosis.
Because surgical repairs for meniscus tears are usually a simple, straightforward procedure, people who have surgery for this are often able to go home on the same day. You might have to wear a brace after the procedure to help protect your knee.
How long it will take for your knee to heal depends on how badly the meniscus was torn and the procedure that was used to treat it. At about three months, the recovery time from a meniscus repair is longer than a partial meniscectomy.
A full recovery from a meniscectomy may take about three to six weeks. To maximise the strength and stability of the knee, exercises will have to be done after surgery. For most people, physical therapy can facilitate the recovery process and help reduce complications.
Pain is your body’s way of telling you that something is not right. Don’t just brush it off and risk the chance of compromising your movement and interupting your daily activities. Get it checked today for the right intervention the soonest possible time. Book your appointment with Dr. Dutton, here.
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