Kevin M. Moran, MD

Meniscal tear

Aug 03, 2023
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What is a torn meniscus?

A torn meniscus is a common knee injury that involves damage to the cartilage in the knee joint. The meniscus is a C-shaped piece of cartilage located between the thigh bone (femur) and the shin bone (tibia). Each knee has two menisci—one on the inner side (medial meniscus) and one on the outer side (lateral meniscus). They act as shock absorbers, providing stability and cushioning to the knee during movement.

A torn meniscus can occur due to sudden twisting or rotation of the knee joint, often seen in sports activities or accidents. It can also result from wear and tear over time, particularly in older individuals with degenerative changes in the knee joint.

Symptoms of a torn meniscus may include:

Knee Pain: Pain is a common symptom, which can be felt along the joint line or deep within the knee.

Swelling: The knee may become swollen, particularly within the first 24 to 48 hours after the injury.

Stiffness: The knee joint may feel stiff and limited in its range of motion.

Locking or Catching: A torn meniscus can cause the knee to lock or catch during movement, making it difficult to fully extend or flex the knee.

Popping Sensation: Some people may hear or feel a popping sensation at the time of the injury.

Instability: The knee may feel unstable or give way, especially during weight-bearing activities.

Diagnosing a torn meniscus involves a physical examination, a review of the medical history, and imaging tests such as MRI or X-rays. MRI is particularly useful in identifying meniscal tears and assessing their severity.

Treatment for a torn meniscus depends on the size, location, and type of tear, as well as the individual's age, activity level, and overall health. The options may include:

Conservative Treatment: Rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE) can help manage pain and swelling. Physical therapy exercises can be prescribed to improve knee strength and flexibility.

Pain Medication: Over-the-counter pain relievers or prescription medications may be used to alleviate pain and inflammation.

Assistive Devices: Crutches or braces can be used to keep weight off the affected knee and provide support during healing.

Injections: Corticosteroid injections can help reduce inflammation and relieve pain.

Arthroscopic Surgery: If conservative measures do not improve symptoms, arthroscopic surgery may be recommended. This minimally invasive procedure involves using a tiny camera (arthroscope) and small instruments to repair or remove the torn meniscus.

In some cases, a torn meniscus can heal on its own, especially with small tears located in the outer region of the meniscus where blood supply is better. However, large or complex tears may require surgical intervention to restore knee function fully.

If you suspect you have a torn meniscus or are experiencing persistent knee pain or instability, make an appointment with Dr. Kevin Moran, a board certified orthopedic surgeon for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan.