Meniscus tears are common in young or middle-age athletes after sports injuries, or can happen in later age without any injury as a wear and tear process of the knee. There are two menisci in the knee: the medial (inner) and lateral (outer side of knee). It is a ‘C’-shaped rubber-type cushion in knee which acts like a shock absorber in the knee. The integrity of the meniscus is important for proper transmission of body weight across the knee.
The symptoms of meniscal tears vary depending on the type and severity of the tear. The usual symptoms are pain and swelling, which get worse with activities like walking, standing or moving the knee joint. In severe cases, locking, catching, clicking and giving way of knee is common. In a bucket handle type of tear the knee gets locked and can’t be extended as the torn piece gets stuck in between two bones and causes pain when you try to straighten out the knee.
The diagnosis can be made by physical exam, but MRI is required to confirm. The treatment depends on age, type and location of tear. In younger patients with tear on red zone (capsular side), it can be repaired as the blood supply near the capsular side is good and healing rate is very good after repair. The degenerative wear and tear type of the tear, or tear on white zone, are more away from blood supply and needs partial meniscectomy. Repair or partial meniscectomy are performed arthroscopically which is a minimally invasive procedure. Physical therapy and rehab are required after the procedure.