The meniscus is a cartilaginous structure in a C or wedge shape, whose purpose is to act like a shock absorber between the thighbone and shinbone. Both knees have two menisci, one on the knee's interior (medial) and one on the outer (lateral) side.
The menisci's primary function is absorbing pressure and distributing body weight. At the same time, they protect the bones from grinding against each other and causing osteoarthritis. Given that the knee joint can gradually deteriorate due to strenuous activity or aging, meniscal injuries can occur, requiring reparative treatment.
Meniscal tears are most commonly caused by traumatic or sporting injuries involving an abnormal overextension or leg rotation that partially or fully ruptures the cartilage. Individuals that suffer a torn meniscus usually report the following symptoms:
These symptoms can vary for every individual depending on the tear's location, severity, patient health, and time that passed since the injury. Additional damage to surrounding structures like the ACL can also co-occur.
Diagnostic physicians first establish if a meniscal tear is present or the symptoms have a different cause. If a tear is evident, they will determine which meniscus was affected and the extent of the damage. The diagnostic process focuses on:
The diagnosis also determines the type of meniscal tear, which include flap, degenerative, bucket handle, and radial tears. These factors allow physicians to determine which type of treatment is required. Light injuries may respond to conservative treatment methods, but more complex injuries may require surgical interventions to repair, remove or replace a torn meniscus.