A boy's basketball team playing on an indoor court

How to Tell If a Meniscus Tear Needs Surgery

A boy's basketball team playing on an indoor court

Although a torn meniscus is commonly caused by athletic activities, it’s possible to tear it through falls, stretching, or other everyday movements. When a meniscus is particularly damaged, it can require surgery to fully heal. Here’s how to determine if a meniscus tear needs surgical attention.

Tearing a Meniscus

The menisci are two C-shaped discs of cartilage that are found in the legs. Connecting the thigh bone to the shinbone, the menisci act as shock absorbers for bones, keeping the knees stable. Although meniscus tears are commonly seen in sports medicine, the meniscus can be torn through a variety of activities, ranging from playing football to twisting during a fall. This often results in swelling around the knee, a stiff feeling in the leg, pain when twisting the knee, or an inability to fully straighten the leg.

Treating a Torn Meniscus

One of the largest determining factors of how to treat a meniscus tear is the size of the tear. Smaller tears can be treated with rest and ice to reduce the swelling. Physical therapy can also help to strengthen the surrounding muscles and return stability to the area. However, those with larger tears may require surgery.

Determining Surgical Needs

Those in severe pain and for whom basic treatments don’t work may be candidates for meniscus surgery. The best way to ensure that this is the right course to take is by receiving an MRI. A physician may also look at the tear with an arthroscope, a thin tool with a camera and a light at the end. This procedure helps the physician determine whether the tear is Grade 1 or 2 (considered mild) or Grade 3, which is more likely to require surgery.

Undergoing Meniscus Surgery

There are several surgical options that an orthopedic surgeon may utilize to repair a torn meniscus. During arthroscopic repair, the doctor will make small incisions in the knee, then place dart-like devices on the tear that will stitch it up. In arthroscopic partial meniscectomy, the doctor will remove pieces of the torn meniscus to restore knee functionality. Or, in arthroscopic total meniscectomy, the doctor will remove the meniscus entirely.

Surgical options for meniscus repair are considered low risk, and they very rarely result in complications. If you believe you may be a candidate for knee surgery due to a torn meniscus or any other complication, call K. Mathew Warnock, MD at 281-807-4380 to schedule your consultation today.

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