After a meniscus tear has been diagnosed, the proper form of treatment must be considered. There are many ways to treat meniscal tears, particularly chronic tears, without surgery. The most common treatments for this condition are:

  • Physical therapy
  • Strength exercises
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Cortisone injections

There are some meniscus tears, however, that are serious enough to require surgery.

Why is Meniscus Repair Important?

Your doctor may recommend meniscus repair through surgery if you have torn or seriously damaged cartilage. In the past, surgery involved the complete removal of the meniscus, although this caused the cartilage on the bone to wear faster than usual.

As arthroscopic surgery became more common, partial menisectomies became a better option to prevent the loss of this necessary cushion and joint stability. During a partial meniscectomy, the surgeon will only remove the portion of the meniscus that is damaged. This method is very effective in both the short and long term, particularly if the tear is small. Large tears can require a great deal of the meniscus to be removed, which may lead to eventual problems.

Who Requires this Surgery?

There are a few types of meniscus tears that respond best to a surgical approach, including a locking knee, an inability to completely straighten the knee and an audible or felt clicking or popping. The surgeon has two ways to fix this problem: the torn meniscus or a portion may be removed, or the surgeon can suture together the edges of the meniscus to repair the tear.

Is Meniscus Repair a Better Option?

Tears close to the outside edge of the circular meniscus may be repaired, as these tears get a better supply of blood. Tears that are in the center of the meniscus cannot be repaired through meniscus surgery because they do not get an adequate blood supply. These tears will instead be removed by the surgeon for a better long-term outcome.

How the Procedure is Performed

There are two ways to repair the meniscus: the surgeon may use an arthroscopic instrument to tack or suture the edges of the cartilage. Both procedures work well to connect the torn edges so they may heal without catching in the knee.

Is Meniscus Repair Generally Successful?

There are two primary factors that determine the success of this surgery. Repairs attempted on the outer edges of the cartilage have a much higher success rate compared to tears in the center. The patient’s post-surgery rehabilitation and therapy can also contribute a great deal to the overall success of the operation.

The repair fails somewhere between 20 and 40% of the time and may require a second surgery to then remove the damaged meniscus.