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Meniscal Tears

The knee joint has two meniscal cartilages, one on the inner side and one on the outer side of the joint. They function as shock absorbers and are important to help prevent arthritis in the long term.

Unfortunately, the meniscus is prone to tearing, especially with sudden twisting movements. Likewise, the meniscal tissue can become more brittle as we get older and again tear quite easily (“a degenerate tear”). Torn tissues need a blood supply to heal themselves but the meniscus typically has a very poor blood supply and therefore does not usually heal itself. Patients with meniscal tears tend to have prolonged symptoms which do not improve with time. These include a darting, clicking pain which is intermittent and unpredictable in nature.

Non-Surgical Treatments

After the initial traumatic event, it is best to see if the intermittent pain settles itself over a number of weeks. A physiotherapist may be helpful in the acute phase. If the darting pain persists for more than 6 weeks, surgery many become necessary.

Surgical Treatments

If the pain persists, a knee arthroscopy may be necessary. This is a simple day case procedure, performed under general anaesthetic, where two small incisions (keyhole surgery) are used to introduce a camera and a shaving device into the knee. The articular cartilage and the meniscal cartilage can be clearly inspected and probed. Unstable segments of the torn meniscus are removed and the meniscus is shaved back to a stable margin. This prevents the intermittent catching, clicking and darting pain. Only the unstable segment is removed and as much meniscal cartilage as possible is preserved.

Following surgery, we will show you photographs of the inside of your knee to explain what happened during the operation. You can go home a number of hours after your surgery, with two crutches. You will be fully mobile and should have mild discomfort only. Most people can return to more sedentary jobs and driving within a number of days. I will ask your GP to remove your stitches after about 10 days and I usually see you again after 6 weeks to ensure you are happy with the outcome of your surgery.

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