A meniscus tear is a common knee injury which mostly occurs when a person quickly turns the body, pivoting on the knee while the foot is held in place. This motion results in a twisting within the knee that can tear the meniscus, a structure in the knee that spans and cushions the space between the joint surfaces of the thigh bone (femur) and shin bone (tibia). Orthopedic surgeons Russell Warren, MD, and Scott Rodeo, MD, provide an overview of treatment options:
- A non-operative physical therapy treatment program will often focus first on reducing pain and maintaining the full motion of the knee.
- Oral non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications such asIbuprofen may also be prescribed.
- After the initial injury pain has decreased and the knee motion is restored, treatment may move to muscle strengthening.
- If surgery is required for treatment of the meniscal tear, this will likely be performedarthroscopically through small incisions, using a fiber-optic camera and small specialized instruments. These instruments allow careful removal of the torn sections or repair of the meniscal tear with sutures or tacks.
- Since the meniscus has an important role in the long-term health and function of the knee, the surgeon will always attempt to keep or repair any part of the meniscus that has the blood supply and potential to heal. Some meniscal tears occur in the avascular part of the meniscus and cannot be repaired. In this case, the torn portion of the meniscus is removed. If the tear is large and occurs in a part of the meniscus with a good blood supply, then a repair may be performed.
The post-operative recovery from repair of a meniscal tear is extremely important and will vary according to the type of meniscal surgery that is required. The early rehabilitation will focus on achieving full knee motion and reducing the swelling from surgery. After this has been achieved, the primary focus will be on restoring muscle strength.
Dr. Russell Warren is the team physician for the New York Giants Football team and oversees all medical care for the players. His special expertise includes shoulder and knee instability, ligament reconstruction and arthroscopy, joint replacement of the knee and shoulder, and rotator cuff disease and sports injuries.
Dr. Scott Rodeo is a clinician-scientist at Hospital for Special Surgery. He specializes in sports medicine injuries of the knee, shoulder, ankle, and elbow. He also performs arthritis surgery of the knee and shoulder, including joint replacement surgery.