The Difference Between a Meniscus Tear and Meniscus Degeneration
The meniscus is a C-shaped pad of specialized cartilage that functions as a shock-absorber within the knee. There are 2 menisci in the knee joint – one on the inside of the knee (medial meniscus) and one on the outside of the knee (lateral meniscus). The menisci are located between the femur and tibia bones in the knee and distribute weight and reduce friction during movement.
Meniscal tears occur with twisting injuries to the knee and are commonly associated with ACL tears. They can be due to a traumatic injury, often seen in athletes, or due to a degenerative process in which the meniscus becomes more brittle.
What Are the Symptoms of a Meniscus Tear?
The symptoms of a meniscus tear include pain, swelling, locking, and the inability to completely straighten the knee joint.
With a small tear, the patient may experience pain and swelling that goes away within a few weeks. A large tear can cause the knee to catch, pop, or lock, or you may not be able to straighten it. The knee may feel wobbly or give out.
When is Meniscus Surgery Necessary?
Treatment of meniscal tears depends on several factors including the type of tear, the location of the tear, and the activity level of the patient. If surgery is necessary, minimally invasive arthroscopic techniques are used to either trim out the torn portion of the meniscus (partial menisectomy) or repair the meniscus (meniscal repair).
“Today we are going to review the partial menisectomy technique. This is one of the most common procedures performed in all of orthopedics.
This patient has a flap tear of the meniscus. You can see that this flap of meniscal tissue has been torn and flipped under itself. It’s carefully brought back into the joint, but you can easily see how this torn meniscus can be pinched between the two bones causing pain.
It is carefully debrided with a shaver, bringing the meniscus back to a nice, stable rim. Once the meniscus is trimmed with the shaver, an upbiter can be used to further contour the meniscus. Only the torn or damaged portion of the meniscus is removed during this procedure. The remaining meniscus is contoured to provide a cushion for future years. Once the meniscus is contoured, it is then probed to ensure stability and to ensure that there is no further tearing that needs to be trimmed. This concludes the partial menisectomy technique.”