Meniscus is a cartilage in the knee joint, which is “C” shaped and cushions the joint. This is visible on one side of the lateral (outer) meniscus and one on the medial (inner) meniscus side of the Femur (thighbone) and the shinbone. (Tibia)
When sudden unusual movement jostles the weight bearing joints in the knee, the knee can rotate forcefully and cause a meniscus tear injuring the area. Another type of injury, such as a total or partial tear that can occur, is when the athlete has his feet firmly planted on the floor, but rotates or twists the upper leg suddenly. This normally happens, when a person is playing football or soccer.
What are the Symptoms?
Depending on the severity of the tear, the torn and injured Meniscus can cause little to excruciating pain, especially when one is trying to straighten the injured leg. The piece of torn cartilage lodges between the tibia and femur, causing the person to wince with pain. Swelling may not occur immediately, but when the joint tissue gets inflamed, the area will swell. A slight popping, or clicking sound may be heard or the knee may suddenly feel weak and lock, when an injury occurs. One may not have to worry about treatment, if the injury is not severe, though it may be necessary for surgical procedure if the pain is acute.
What is the procedure adopted for Diagnosis?
The physician will have to perform a thorough physical examination to determine the extent of injury or tear caused by meniscus. He will bend the knee in several ways to see the reaction of his manipulations. Sounds, like clicks and pops accompanied by pain, are general indications of a meniscus tear. Doctors may suggest an MRI to check out the extent of damage.
What is the treatment involved?
Treatment will vary, as it depends on the exact location and extent of injury or tear of the meniscus. The physician may suggest some strengthening exercises for the muscles if the pain is mild and the swelling and other symptoms reduce. Physiotherapy is normally suggested for minor meniscus injuries.
What is the Surgical Procedure recommended?
If the meniscus tear is large and there are severe problems with the mechanical functioning of the knee joint, the physician will suggest arthroscopic surgery to repair the tear. A small incision is made and a camera is inserted into the joint and surgical instruments are inserted through a second tiny incision into the joint. The surgeons view the damage with the help of the camera and repair the torn pieces with the instruments. He tries to save the normal cartilage and retain the original as far as possible.
The doctor evaluates the situation and either removes the torn section by performing a meniscectomy or repair the cartilage by joining the torn edges together using tacks or sutures.
Who makes the decision to perform the surgery?
This is a difficult decision to make in some cases. This depends on the exact location of the meniscus tear. The supply of blood to the meniscus is from the lateral edge. If the tear is close to this supply of blood, the tear heals quicker than nearer the centre, as this will take long to heal due to less supply of blood.
The doctors normally decide to remove the pieces of cartilage tear if it occurs in the centre of the cartilage with surgery.