Your treatment plan depends on the size, location, and severity of your meniscus tear. For minor tears, treatment typically begins more conservatively. No matter the severity of the tear, your meniscus cannot heal itself. However, with minor tears, you should still be able to function in your daily and athletic activities without the need for surgery.
What is Your Meniscus
You have two C-shaped cartilage discs on either side of each knee that work to stabilize and protect your knee joints. These are your menisci. A meniscus lacks the blood supply to be able to heal itself, so a tear must be professionally diagnosed and repaired.
Is your knee locking as you walk? Do you feel a popping sensation or pain as it bends? Meniscus tears do not repair themselves and can affect your ability to exercise and perform daily activities. Our orthopaedic specialists in Austin, TX, can diagnose and repair your meniscus tear so you can get back to the activities you enjoy.
The Functions of Your Meniscus
Your meniscus cushions the knee joint and absorbs the shock that occurs during regular movements.
Your meniscus works to stabilize your knee joint as you walk, run, and jump.
Struggling With Knee Pain?
If you are struggling with knee pain, swelling, or a feeling of being unstable on your feet, do not wait to reach out to our Austin office. Due to the lack of blood supply, a tear in your meniscus cannot be healed on its own and requires professional diagnosis and treatment. Our orthopedic specialists use the most advanced techniques to provide minimally invasive treatment options. They can properly diagnose your knee pain and build a treatment plan that allows you to live pain-free. Contact our Austin, TX, office today to schedule an appointment.
What Puts You At Risk of Tearing Your Meniscus
As we age, our cartilage naturally begins to wear down. As the meniscus gets thinner, it is more prone to tears.
People who play sports like football, wrestling, and hockey have a higher chance of tearing their meniscus than people who swim or run.
Sharp Movements and Pivoting
Activities or sports that require you to pivot or make sudden stops, like basketball or tennis, put you at a higher risk of damaging your meniscus.
Excess weight puts added stress on your joints and can speed up the natural aging process of your meniscus.
The symptoms of A Torn Meniscus
Meniscus tears range from minor to severe. The symptoms of your tear depend on the severity.
Minor meniscus tears generally cause mild discomfort and some inflammation, which typically dissipates within a few days, despite the cartilage’s inability to heal itself.
Moderate meniscus tears can cause more pain and swelling that worsen over the course of several days. You can typically still walk, but bending the knee is difficult. Although your pain may subside within a couple of weeks, it will typically return with overuse.
Severe meniscus tears can separate the meniscus into pieces, which can dislodge and affect the knee joint. You may experience a popping sound, or your knee may feel locked in place. Severe tears often cause you to feel unstable. Pain and swelling are often intense and increase within the first few days following the initial injury.
How We Diagnose a Torn Meniscus
First, you will need to schedule an appointment with one of our doctors in Austin, TX. They will confirm if your knee swelling and pain are a result of a meniscus tear. Your doctor will start with a physical exam. Special imaging might be used to confirm a meniscus tear and rule out other possibilities.
Your doctor will do a physical exam where they test your range of motion, watch you walk, have you squat, and check the stability of your knee joint. They will also ask you to pinpoint the area where you feel the most pain while doing certain activities.
Since your meniscus is made of cartilage, it will not appear on an X-ray. But doctors will typically use an X-ray to rule out any other potential cause of your knee pain that might have similar symptoms.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is used to see a meniscus tear. MRIs use a magnetic field to produce an image of both soft and hard tissue, so cartilage can be seen. An MRI is the best way to view a meniscus tear and rule out other potential causes.
Non-surgical Treatment of a Minor Meniscus Tear
Rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE), is usually the doctor's first recommendation after a joint injury. Rest is the first step, as you need to stay off your knee as much as possible the first few days. You should also wrap a compression wrap around your knee, and then ice and elevate it throughout the day. The RICE method decreases inflammation in the knee joint and promotes healing.
Depending on the severity of your pain, your doctor may prescribe you over-the-counter pain medication or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). This will help you manage your pain and swelling while performing daily activities.
For minor to moderate tears that are not helped with RICE or medication, your doctor may prescribe physical therapy. Physical therapists will help strengthen the muscles around your knee joint. By strengthening these muscles, your joint achieves better support and stability, allowing you to get back to the activities you love.
Why Choose Us for Your Meniscus Repair
We are a team of board-certified, fellowship-trained specialists who treat a wide range of conditions on any part of the body. Each of our specialists focus on a specific area. Unlike generalists who may perform surgery on a certain joint twice a year, these specialists perform about six a day. This means when you come to see our knee specialist for your meniscus repair, you can be sure you are getting top-quality care. Our goal is to provide effective treatment by utilizing the least invasive option for the quickest recovery possible. If you are struggling with knee pain and inflammation, get in touch with our Austin, TX, office to learn more about your treatment options.
If you are still suffering from knee pain after non-invasive treatments, your doctor may recommend surgery. The type of surgery we recommend depends on the severity of the tear. Ideally, your surgeon would not need to remove any of the menisci.
During this surgery, your surgeon will repair your meniscus by either suturing the tear or anchoring it into place.
Arthroscopic Partial Meniscectomy
For a more severe tear, your surgeon will remove a piece of your torn meniscus rather than suture it closed.
Arthroscopic Total Meniscectomy
During this surgery, your entire meniscus is removed. This is rare and only used if the meniscus is beyond repair.
What To Expect During Arthroscopic Meniscus Repair Surgery
Our team of doctors in Austin, TX, can repair the meniscus through arthroscopic surgery. The procedure itself is performed on an outpatient basis, so you will need someone available to take you to and from your surgery.
General anesthesia will be administered so you remain unconscious throughout the meniscus repair procedure.
Our surgeon will make three small incisions in the knee. Because the incisions are so small, you will have minimal scarring.
Once the incisions are made, your surgeon will insert the arthroscope, which is a thin tube with a camera and light attached. They can then insert surgical instruments and repair your meniscus with either sutures or anchors to hold it in place. Your body will naturally absorb these sutures over time. After the meniscus is repaired, they will place additional sutures to close your incisions.
Are There Any Risks Involved with Meniscus Surgery?
Complications and risks of arthroscopic repair are very rare, but not impossible. Nerve damage can occur and cause a change of sensation around your knee and leg. Call your doctor right away if you notice any signs of infection. Choosing experienced and reputable specialists to perform your surgery is one of the surest ways to minimize the risks of this procedure.
Recovery After Meniscus Repair
Once repaired, most patients can return home within a few hours of surgery. Your doctor will provide you with detailed instructions regarding your post-operative care. Your individual recovery timeline will vary depending on several circumstances. More severe tears require more extensive surgical repair and may lengthen your recovery period. Your recovery will also depend on the state of your health. Older patients, or those who suffer from a compromised immune system, will likely take longer to recover.
You will be fitted with a brace or immobilizer to wear for the first two weeks following surgery. This keeps your knee immobile and prevents it from bearing weight so it has time to heal.
Physical therapy is also necessary to rehabilitate your knee and regain full function. Your physical therapist will work with our doctors to develop a treatment plan to make sure your progress is safe and effective.
While you may begin walking within just a few weeks after surgery, more intensive activities such as running are not recommended for a couple of months or longer. Your doctor and physical therapist will let you know when certain activities are safe for you to resume.