Understanding Meniscectomy

What is Meniscectomy?

The meniscus is a portion of the knee joint that is a critical shock absorber between your bones and cartilage. A meniscectomy surgically removes the torn portion of the meniscus when it’s injured. It’s just one treatment we use here at the Louisville Hip and Joint Institute to help patients regain use of their knees without constant pain or discomfort.

Your knees are the largest joints in the human body. They play an important role in mobility and are key for pivoting and weight-bearing activities. A torn meniscus is the most common injury that occurs in the human knee.  There are more than 500,000 meniscal tear cases reported in the U.S. every year.

What Is The Meniscus?

Your knee is a complex structure made up of several bones, including:

  • Femur (thigh bone)
  • Tibia (shin bone)
  • Patella (knee cap)

Ligaments and cartilage hold these structures in place and provide cushioning between the bones. Your meniscus is two wedge-shaped rubbery pieces of cartilage that serve as a shock absorber between the Femur (thigh bone) and Tibia (shin bone). There is one meniscus on the inside (medial menisci) and one on the outside (lateral menisci) of the knee.

These small cushions handle tremendous pressure and weight while also helping stabilize the knee – especially with twisting motions. Without your meniscus, your knee would be just the ends of your bones (articular cartilage) rubbing against each other, and the grinding pressure of normal movement would degrade the joint and cause painful arthritis to develop.

knee replacement patient

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“Dr. Greene has such an amazing sense of humor and he cares about his patients wellbeing. Thanks Dr. Greene for doing an amazing job on all my surgeries.”

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How Can You Injure Your Meniscus?

There are two primary types of injury to the meniscus that we commonly treat:

  • Traumatic or acute tears from an immediate injury such a twisting injury when playing tennis or stepping into a hole accidentally. These create immediate instability in the joint and can be quite painful to the patient.
  • Degenerative tears occur when the meniscus wears out over time. This is most likely an old injury to the meniscus which gets worse over a long period of time.  These tears can also cause tremendous pain and trouble squatting or even walking.

During the injury, a patient may hear a popping sound typically when the meniscus tears.  While the patient may still be able to walk, normal daily activities such as going up or downstairs can cause increasing pain.  Some athletes may even be able to play sports with a torn meniscus and don’t realize the extent of their injury until the knee swells and grows stiff.

A large tear may cause you to lose balance or the knee may buckle. If a piece of the meniscus tears off and floats around inside the knee, the joint can lock up, stiffen, or swell.

“Louisville Hip & Knee Institute did an amazing job on my knee surgery. I couldn’t be happier with the quality of their work and dedication.”

What are The Symptoms of a Meniscus Tear?

Some of the symptoms of a torn meniscus include:

  • Knee instability
  • Knee pain
  • Popping or locking of the knee
  • Reduced range of motion
  • Stiffness and swelling

If your doctor determines the injury is a small tear, non-surgical treatment may be recommended. Sometimes a doctor with recommend “RICE” which stands for:

  • Rest
  • Ice
  • Compress
  • Elevation

The doctor may prescribe NSAIDs to help with pain and swelling. Your doctor may opt for injection therapy, which is usually a cortisone shot to the affected area to reduce inflammation.  Surgery may follow if these treatments aren’t enough to take care of the problem.  In most cases, a meniscus tear requires surgery to improve the patient’s outcomes.

Different types of meniscus tears require different approaches, but your age, overall health, and activity levels also play a role in the decision that you and your orthopaedic specialist choose.

During the physical exam, your doctor will rotate, bend, and straighten the knee, checking for tenderness and for a clicking noise that is a telltale sign the meniscus has been torn. Typically, the diagnosis is confirmed with MRI.

What to Expect During a Meniscectomy?

Depending on the situation, the orthopedic surgeons at Louisville Hip and Knee Institute may use a more non-invasive approach for your meniscectomy. Arthroscopy is a procedure that uses a thin tube with a camera and light to examine and perform the repair. This procedure typically involves several small incisions resulting in a faster healing time and less scarring for patients.

You will have very light anesthesia for this procedure and it will be performed in our state-of-the-art orthopedic facility with our expert team to provide you with the care you deserve.  The procedure is usually relatively quick – lasting about 15 minutes – and patients can immediately walk on the knee/leg.

What to Expect After Meniscectomy Surgery?

Most meniscectomy surgeries are performed as an outpatient procedure, which limits the amount of time you spend in a hospital, letting you instead recover in the comfort of your home. The length of recovery depends on the type of meniscectomy surgery and your overall health. Generally, patients recover over days to weeks and rarely have complications from the surgery.  Typically athletes are back to sports within 6 weeks.

The doctor may prescribe physical therapy to increase your range of motion and get your knee and the surrounding muscles back to normal. The doctor and your physical therapist may even have exercises or “homework” that you can do at home.

If you have recurring knee pain or have suffered an injury to your knees, Louisville Hip and Knee Institute can help you with the best in quality care. Talk to our expert team today and get back to health. 

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