The knee joint is formed by the ends of 3 bones: the lower end of the thigh bone (femur), the upper end of the shin bone (tibia), and the knee cap (patella). Thick, tough tissue bands called ligaments connect the bones and stabilize the joint. A smooth, plastic-like lining called cartilage covers the ends of the bones and prevents them from rubbing against each other, allowing for flexible and nearly frictionless movement.
Cartilage also serves as a shock absorber, cushioning the bones from the forces between them. Finally, a soft tissue called synovium lines the joint and produces a lubricating fluid that reduces friction and wear.
There is no known medicine or therapy that will heal or fix a torn meniscus. It is a mechanical problem that often requires a mechanical solution.
This typically means you will need either a partial excision (removal) or repair of the tear. Excision versus repair is often decided at the time of arthroscopic surgery and will depend upon several factors. The patient’s age, the age of the tear, the size and location, as well as the patient’s activity level all play a role in deciding whether a tear can be repaired or must be excised. In general, due to the essential role of the meniscus in protecting the knee from early arthritis, repair when possible, is always preferable to removal.
If your symptoms persist with nonsurgical treatment, your doctor may suggest arthroscopic surgery.
Knee arthroscopy is one of the most commonly performed surgical procedures. In it, a miniature camera is inserted through a small incision. This provides a clear view of the inside of the knee. Your orthopedic surgeon inserts miniature surgical instruments through other small incisions to trim or repair the tear.
A partial meniscectomy procedure involves trimming away the damaged meniscal tissue. Some meniscal tears can be repaired by suturing (stitching) the torn pieces together called a meniscal repair procedure. Whether a tear can be successfully treated with repair depends upon the type of tear, as well as the overall condition of the injured meniscus. Because the meniscus must heal back together, recovery time for a repair is much longer than from a meniscectomy.