How Should You Treat Your Torn Meniscus?

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If you're suffering from pain in your knee whenever you squat, place weight on your leg, or climb stairs, odds are high that you have a torn meniscus. However, this doesn't necessarily mean you need to have orthopedic surgery. Read on to learn more about the treatment options for this injury.

What is the meniscus?

The meniscus is a donut-shaped piece of cartilage and tissue that forms a cushion between your kneecap (patella) and lower leg bones (tibia and fibula). When you suddenly twist your knee, this meniscus can strain and tear -- either tearing the "donut" itself or tearing the connective tissue that holds the meniscus to your lower leg.

Although some minor tears can heal on their own, a severely torn meniscus may need to be repaired to prevent chronic pain.

What treatment options do you have? 

The type of treatment for a torn meniscus largely depends on the age of the patient, the degree of the tear, and the location of the tear.

Although much of the meniscus is made of cartilage, which does not have a blood flow, there are portions of the meniscus that are composed of living tissue. If you tear one of these areas, and the torn portions of the meniscus are able to touch one another, it's likely that this tear can heal on its own.

On the other hand, if you tear a portion of the cartilage, or the edges of the tear are far apart from one another, it may be impossible for this tear to heal. Your doctor should be able to evaluate the location and size of your meniscus tear by using an MRI or CT scan.

Additional considerations involve your age and activity level. If you're young or active, your doctor may be more inclined to surgically repair your tear -- since waiting around for it to heal could take a while. On the other hand, if you're older and not particularly active, your doctor may recommend that you take a "wait and see" attitude.

In some cases, a partial or total knee replacement may be a better option, particularly if arthritis is beginning to develop in your knee.

What happens if you need surgery?

If you do need surgery to repair your meniscus, it is a fairly simple process, and nearly always outpatient -- meaning that you'll get to go home the day of your surgery. Your surgeon will make a small incision in your knee and use a scope with an attached camera to manipulate the edges of the tear and stitch them together. Eventually, these stitches will dissolve and be absorbed by your body.

For more help, contact a company like Orthopaedic Associates Of Rochester to learn more.