About the Knee Joint and Meniscus
The knee is comprised of 3 bones: the femur, tibia, and patella. The meniscus are rubbery, wedge-shaped cushions between the femur and tibia. They are anchored to the tibia with coronary ligaments. The meniscus help to distribute weight across the knee joint and improve the stability of the joint. Meniscal tears are one of the most common knee injuries.
The most central part of the meniscus is avascular, no direct blood supply. Without oxygen and nutrients supplied by the blood, healing cannot take place. If the tear is in this area, healing will tend to be incomplete. It will most likely require surgery to trim the torn portion of meniscus.
One of the most common causes of a meniscus tear is due to traumatic injury. In a car accident, truck accident, motorcycle accident, or slip and fall accident a meniscus tear occurs when the knee joint is bent and then twisted. It is very common for a meniscus tear to occur along with an injury to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and the medial collateral ligament (MCL).
Meniscus Tear Symptoms
Pain and swelling are the primary symptoms of a meniscus tear. Other common complaints are:
- knee joint locking
- tenderness when pressing on the meniscus
- popping or clicking within the knee
- limited motion due to the torn cartilage interfering with the joint mechanism of the knee
Diagnosing and Treatment of Meniscus Tears
X-rays and MRIs are the most frequently used tests in diagnosing meniscus tears. An x-ray does not show the meniscus, but can be used to determine if there is evidence of damage to the knee joint. The MRI is the most beneficial test because it can create better images of the soft tissues. It can actually show the meniscus, including any tears or damage.
Treatment of meniscal tears depends on several factors, because not all meniscus tears require surgery. The type of tear you have, your age, activity level, and any related injuries will factor into the doctor’s recommendation for your treatment plan.
Arthroscopic surgery may be necessary. Knee arthroscopy is a very commonly performed surgery. The surgery involves cutting 3 small slits; one for a miniature camera, the other two for miniature surgical instruments. The meniscal tear will either be sutured, trimmed, or removed. A meniscal transplant is another possibility.
Meniscus Tear Risks and Recovery
There are risks with every surgery. The greatest risks with knee arthroscopy are:
- nerve damage
- reaction to anesthetic
Following surgery, the doctor may put your knee in a cast or brace to limit movement. Once the knee is healed, rehabilitation exercises will be prescribed. Regular exercise is necessary to restore the knee’s range of motion and strength.
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