What Is Meniscal Repair?
The menisci (singular, meniscus) are rubbery, C-shaped pieces of cartilage in the knee that sit between the femur (thigh bone) and tibia (shin bone), stabilizing the knee and acting as shock absorbers. Meniscal tears are common knee injuries, especially for athletes.
Menisci can tear in a number of different ways. Some of the more common tears include:
- Bucket handle tear—the inner portion of the meniscus detaches and flips over toward the middle of the knee
- Degenerative tear—a fraying of the meniscus due to age or repeated use
- Flap tear—looks similar to a bucket handle tear, except it occurs on the surface of the meniscus and not all the way through it
- Radial tear—a split into the middle of the meniscus from the side closest to the center of the knee; the most common type of meniscal tear
People with meniscus injuries usually have two options. The first is removing the torn part of the meniscus. This is called a partial meniscectomy. The second is meniscal repair, which reattaches the torn part of the meniscus back onto the rest of it.
Common Reasons for Meniscal Repair
Acute injury in sports is a common reason for needing a meniscal repair. Athletes in contact sports and sports that involve quickly rotating or changing direction are at particular risk for meniscus injuries. Age-related wear-and-tear can also cause meniscus injuries.
Candidates for Meniscal Repair
Meniscal surgery, whether a partial meniscectomy or a meniscal repair, may depend on the type of tear and its location. If the tear happens in the third of the meniscus that has a blood supply, it will often heal on its own. If not, meniscal repair surgery is usually successful. If the tear occurs in the two-thirds of the meniscus without blood supply, the tear will not heal on its own and the surgeon will cut off the torn piece.
Both partial meniscectomies and meniscal repairs are usually done arthroscopically with small incisions, small tools and a flexible camera called an arthroscope hooked up to a video monitor. In a partial meniscectomy, surgeons cut away the torn piece of meniscus. During meniscal repair surgery, surgeons reattach the torn piece of meniscus to the rest of the meniscus with stitches.
People recover from partial meniscectomies more quickly than from meniscal repairs. This is because the meniscus must heal back together when it is repaired. Recovering from a partial meniscectomy takes approximately one to two months, while recovering from a meniscal repair can take three to five months.
After meniscal repair surgery, a brace will probably be necessary, and the patient will likely be on crutches initially to keep the weight off the repaired knee. Physical therapy may be advised after meniscal repair surgery. This will increase the range of motion and help strengthen the muscles around the knee to keep it stable.
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