Meniscus surgery aims to repair or remove a damaged or torn meniscus. Most meniscus tears can be repaired very successfully with patients returning to previous activity levels within just a few weeks.
The actual surgery you undergo will depend on the nature and severity of the damage to your meniscus and its ability to heal. Your age, general health and activity levels will also be taken into account. Most people only require a partial meniscal resection but in some cases a total meniscal resection may be required.
Some meniscus tears cannot be satisfactorily repaired by stitching if the area is not well supplied with blood or if the meniscus is overly damaged. In these cases surgery, to remove the damaged meniscus may be required; this is called a total meniscal resection or total meniscectomy.
The operation may be carried out under a general anaesthetic (so you’ll be asleep) or a local anaesthetic (so you’ll stay awake but won’t feel anything).
Arthroscopic surgery is ‘minimally invasive surgery’ on a joint in which an examination and often the treatment itself is carried out. This key-hole technique uses an arthroscope (a small tube with a camera) which is inserted into the joint through a small incision. Other instruments may be inserted through further small incisions to actually carry out the repair. Arthroscopic surgery minimises the impact of the operation itself and helps promote fuller, faster recovery.
Surgery aims to remove as little of the healthy meniscus as possible. At the same time any unsound fragments of meniscus will be removed and all the meniscus edges will be smoothed. Retaining as much meniscus as possible will reduce the risk of future ‘wear and tear’ in the joint and maintain the possibility of using a meniscus implant at a later date if required.
Most meniscus tear surgery requires only a partial meniscal resection. A total meniscal resection is required in only around 15% of cases.
Immediately after surgery we’ll help you manage any pain or discomfort with painkillers.
We’ll discuss your aftercare and arrange any follow-up appointments with you before you leave hospital. A physiotherapist will discuss your rehabilitation and give you a programme of exercise to follow.
In the first few days following your surgery you may need to use crutches to get around and you may need to put an ice pack on your knee to reduce swelling and minimise discomfort. The time needed before you return to work, driving and more vigorous activities will depend on the extent of your surgery and the progress of your recovery. Most people can bear weight on their knee a day or two after surgery and will return to full activities within 2 to 4 weeks.
Arthroscopic meniscal resection is a common procedure which is generally very well tolerated by patients.
As with any surgical procedure there can be some risks, including:
- blood clots (including deep vein thrombosis (DVT))
Specific risks of arthroscopic meniscal resection include:
- further meniscal tears
- damage to nerves
Moderate meniscus tears can heal on their own over time. Physiotherapy can sometimes help this healing process.