The knee joint is formed by three bones: femur (thigh bone), tibia (shin bone) and patella (kneecap). Two wedge-shaped rubbery discs called menisci sit in between the femur and tibia. The medial meniscus is located on the inner side of the knee and the lateral meniscus is located on the outer side of the knee.
These provide cushioning to the knee joint and also act as shock absorbers. They help transmit weight between bones and provide stability to the knee. The menisci are rich in blood supply and therefore also help in nourishing and repairing the articular cartilage.
Meniscus Tears are among the most common knee injuries. It is usually seen in athletes due to acute trauma during sports. They can occur through a pivoting or cutting injury. Menisci tears are also seen in people as they age. This is due to degenerative changes in the aged and worn-out tissues. Even an awkward twist while standing up from a seated posture is enough to cause a meniscus tear in old people.
The common types of meniscus tears include bucket handle, flap and radial tear.
A Meniscal tear usually produces a popping sound. Signs and symptoms like pain, swelling, stiffness, locking of knees and inability to move the knee completely develop 2-3 days after the tear.
The diagnosis of a Meniscal tear is done after discussing the symptoms and examination of the knee. Signs of tenderness along the joint line is suggestive of a tear. An X-ray and MRI scan of the knee joint helps in confirming the diagnosis and differentiating it from other knee injuries.
Treatment of Meniscal tear depends on several factors like age, severity of the damage, location of the tear and activity level of the person.
Non-surgical treatment is advised when symptoms do not persist and there is no swelling or restricted movement of the knee joint. This includes rest, applying ice packs, compression and elevation of the affected leg. In some cases, anti-inflammatory drugs and steroids are prescribed to reduce pain and swelling.
Surgical treatment is required for meniscal tears that do not respond to conservative treatment. It is best to consult an orthopaedic specialist for a detailed evaluation.
Two types of arthroscopic knee surgeries can be done to repair the torn meniscus.