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I have a question about treatment for a torn meniscus

What is a meniscus tear?

The meniscus is the ‘shock absorbing’ cartilage in the knee joint between your thighbone (femur) and shinbone (tibia). There are two menisci in each of your knee joints.

If you’ve suffered an injury to the knee, either twisting or an impact, your meniscus may become damaged or torn.

What causes a torn meniscus?

A torn meniscus can result from any activity that causes you to forcefully twist or rotate your knee. Everyday movements, such as getting up from a deep squat, kneeling or lifting something heavy can cause a torn meniscus

Athletes are particularly at risk, especially those who participate in contact sports such as football or activities that involve pivoting quickly, such as squash, tennis or netball. It can also affect those who perform a significant amount of heavy lifting as part of their job, such as construction or warehouse workers. 

Wear and tear on your knees as you age also increases the risk of a torn meniscus, as does being obese.

What are the symptoms of a meniscus tear of the knee?

Meniscus tear symptoms can include:

  • A ‘popping’ sound when the injury first happens
  • Swelling in the knee joint
  • Pain and discomfort
  • Difficulty in moving or bending the joint
  • A locked knee or feeling like your knee is giving way

How is a meniscus tear diagnosed?

One of the main tests for meniscus tears is the McMurray test. Your doctor will bend your knee and then straighten whilst rotating it slightly to see if there are signs of a tear.

They may also refer you to our Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeons for further tests, such as x-rays or a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan, to rule out other possible conditions and to identify the precise problem.

What is meniscus tear treatment?

Sometimes a minor tear will heal with rest; other more serious damage may need to be treated with surgery – known as an arthroscopic repair.

Your Consultant will recommend the torn meniscus treatment that’s best for you. Several factors will be considered including where the tear is and the extent of the damaged tissue.

What is arthroscopic repair of torn meniscus?

This treatment is also known as a meniscectomy and is surgery to repair a knee meniscus tear. ‘Arthroscopic’ describes the type of key-hole surgery used for this procedure which minimises the impact of the operation itself.

What should I expect after arthroscopic repair of a torn meniscus?

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.

What happens during an arthroscopic repair of a torn meniscus?

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.

Sports injury care at Benenden Hospital

Sports injury care

Whether you're an amateur or a professional athlete, sports injuries can be a frustrating and painful part of participating in physical activity.

That's why we offer a wide range of self-pay treatment options - so you can get back to taking part in the sports you love.

Our Orthopaedic Consultants

Mr Oliver

Matthew Oliver

Consultant Trauma and Orthopaedic Surgeon

Mr Oliver's specialties include patient specific knee replacement, enhanced recovery protocols and Dupuytrens disease.

Mr Reddy

Kumar Reddy

Associate Specialist Surgeon

Mr Reddy specialises in total hip and knee replacements, revision joint replacements, ACL reconstruction, and more.

Mr Chipperfield

Alex Chipperfield

Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon

Mr Chipperfield's specialties include hip and knee replacement, revision hip and knee replacement, and more.

Mr Dunnet

William Dunnet

Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon

Mr Dunnet's specialities include hip surgery, patella realignment and lower limb procedures.

Mr Goddard

Richard Goddard

Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon

Mr Goddard's specialties include total knee replacement and Signature total knee replacement.

Mr Mark Jones

Mark Jones

Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon

Mr Mark Jones is a Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon who specialises in knee replacement and knee surgeries.

Contact us about treatment for a torn meniscus

It's easy to find out more about treatment by giving us a call or completing our enquiry form.