Torn Meniscus Surgery in Asheville

Diagnosis, symptoms & treatment options for a meniscus tear

One of the most common sports knee injuries is a tear in the shock-absorbing cartilage pad called the meniscus. A torn meniscus can occur as an acute injury, caused by a hard hit or sudden twisting of the knee, or be the result of weakened knee cartilage.

Either way, the injury can cause pain, stiffness and swelling and even cause your knee to lock up or give way when you walk. Fortunately, most meniscus tears can be successfully treated non-surgically or repaired with arthroscopic surgery.

What is a meniscus?

Three bones meet at your knee joint: the femur (thigh bone), tibia (shin), and kneecap, which are held to together by ligaments in the center and on either side. A pad of cartilage called a meniscus sits between the femur and tibia to prevent “bone on bone” contact. Each knee has two menisci: a lateral meniscus and a medial meniscus, which sit on either side of the cruciate ligaments.

Menisci are tough, rubbery, and slightly flexible to absorb shock when you run, walk or jump. However, a meniscus can tear if the knee is injured or if the cartilage starts to break down and weaken with age.

How do you know if you have a torn meniscus?

Any of following symptoms may indicate a torn meniscus:

  • Popping sound or sensation in the knee
  • Swelling or stiffness
  • Knee pain when rotating or twisting at the knee joint
  • Trouble fully extended the knee
  • Feeling like the knee is catching or locking

As other knee injuries share similar symptoms, it is important to see a qualified orthopedic surgeon or knee specialist to diagnose a torn meniscus.

Diagnosing a torn meniscus

The first step is a patient consultation and physical exam. At Carolina Hand & Sports Medicine, patients who suspect a torn meniscus will see knee specialist Dr. Matthew B. Massey or sports medicine specialist Dr. Jay West.

During the initial appointment, the doctor will review your medical history and activity level and ask questions about any specific events that may be related to your injury. He will also take your knee through a series of bends and movements to test for pain along the joint line and a “clicking” noise, which indicates a meniscus tear.

He may also order X-rays and/or MRI to rule out other injuries and get more accurate images of your meniscus.

Treatments for a meniscus tear

Your doctor will take several factors into consideration when determining an appropriate treatment, including:

  • Location of the tear. If the tear is in the outer one-third of the meniscus, where there is good blood supply, it may heal well with rest and time. A tear in the inner portion, where there is no blood supply, will usually require surgery to trim away the excess—the torn pieces cannot grow back together.
  • Size and pattern of the tear. A larger or irregular tear will usually require surgery to repair or to trim away jagged edges. Smaller tears, especially on the outside of the meniscus, usually respond well to non-surgical treatment.
  • Your activity level and preferred treatment course. For instance, patients whose torn meniscus is preventing them from participating fully in sports often choose to have surgery.

What is the surgery to repair a torn meniscus like?

Our orthopedic surgeons are highly experienced in meniscus repair and typically perform the procedure arthroscopically, which reduces post-operative pain and recovery time.

Through several small incisions, the surgeon will use thin instruments, including a tiny camera for vision, to locate the torn piece of cartilage and either trim away rough edges or suture together the tear.

How long does it take to recover from a meniscus tear?

Recovery time following surgery for a torn meniscus depends on what was done during the procedure as well as your individual healing rate. Typically, patients need about 3 to 4 weeks to recovery after a meniscectomy (surgery only removing pieces of the meniscus), and about 3 months to recovery from a meniscus repair, as the tissues require time to heal back together.

If you have questions about treatments for a torn meniscus, please contact us at Carolina Hand & Sports Medicine. Our goal is to help you get back to the full, active lifestyle you love, and we’ll be happy to help.

Contact us to make an appointment.