Meniscus Repair Surgery

Injuries to the meniscus—the rubbery cartilage in the knee joint—can be painful and debilitating, affecting daily activities and sports participation. This article will discuss meniscus repair surgery, exploring what it is, who might benefit from it, and what to expect during and after the procedure. 

If you’re experiencing knee pain or suspect a meniscus injury, consider reaching out to us at Orthopedic Specialists & Sports Medicine, a trusted provider with locations in Granville and Coshocton, Ohio. Our team of orthopedic specialists can offer expert guidance and personalized care to help you on your journey to recovery.

What is a Meniscus Tear?

A meniscus tear is a common injury that happens in the knee joint. The knee has two menisci, which are rubbery, C-shaped pieces of cartilage that act as shock absorbers between the thigh bone (femur) and shinbone (tibia). 

When you twist or turn your knee forcefully or put too much pressure on it, you can tear the meniscus. This often causes pain, swelling, stiffness, and sometimes a popping sensation in the knee

Meniscus tears can happen during sports, especially those that involve sudden stops and turns, but they can also occur as a result of degeneration over time, especially in older adults.

What is Meniscus Repair Surgery?

Meniscus repair surgery is a procedure to fix a torn meniscus, the rubbery cartilage in the knee joint. There are a few types of surgery commonly used for meniscus repair: arthroscopic knee surgery, meniscus transplant surgery, and arthroscopic meniscus repair.

Arthroscopic knee surgery is a minimally invasive procedure where a tiny camera and surgical tools are inserted through small incisions in the knee. This allows the surgeon to see inside the knee and perform repairs without making large cuts.

In some cases, when the meniscus is severely damaged and cannot be repaired, meniscus transplant surgery may be an option. This involves replacing the damaged meniscus tissue with healthy tissue from a donor.

Arthroscopic meniscus repair is a specific type of surgery where the surgeon uses special instruments to sew together the torn edges of the meniscus. This is often done when the tear is on the outer edge of the meniscus, where there is good blood supply, which helps with healing.

A surgeon explaining how a meniscus repair surgery will happen using a model of a knee.

When is a Meniscus Repair Surgery Needed?

Meniscus repair surgery is typically needed when someone has a significant meniscus injury that causes persistent pain, swelling, and difficulty moving the knee. Candidates for this surgery are often those who have experienced a tear in the meniscus due to sports injuries, accidents, or degenerative changes in the knee joint, especially if conservative treatments like rest, physical therapy, and medications haven’t provided relief.

People who have symptoms such as locking or catching in the knee, or who find it hard to fully straighten or bend their knee, might also benefit from meniscus repair surgery. It’s important for individuals experiencing these symptoms to consult with a doctor, who can assess the injury and determine if surgery is the best course of action to restore function and relieve discomfort.

How to Prepare for Meniscus Surgery

Preparing for meniscus repair surgery involves several steps to ensure the best possible outcome. First, your doctor will provide instructions on any medications to stop taking before surgery, such as blood thinners. You may also need to fast for a certain period before the procedure.

It’s essential to arrange for transportation to and from the hospital or surgical center since you won’t be able to drive after the surgery. Prepare your home for a comfortable recovery by stocking up on essentials like ice packs, pillows, and loose-fitting clothing.

Follow any pre-operative instructions provided by your healthcare team, such as bathing with a special soap the night before surgery to reduce the risk of infection. Lastly, mentally prepare for the procedure by asking questions, understanding what to expect during and after surgery, and discussing any concerns with your healthcare provider. By taking these steps, you can help ensure a smooth and successful meniscus repair surgery.

What Happens During a Meniscus Repair Surgery

During meniscus repair surgery, the patient is typically given anesthesia to ensure they don’t feel any pain during the procedure. There are different types of anesthesia, including general anesthesia, where you’re asleep, or regional anesthesia, where only the area around the knee is numbed.

The surgeon begins by making small incisions around the knee, through which they insert a tiny camera called an arthroscope and surgical instruments. The arthroscope allows the surgeon to see inside the knee joint on a monitor, guiding them through the repair process without the need for large incisions.

Next, the surgeon assesses the extent of the meniscus injury. If the damaged tissue can be repaired, the surgeon carefully sews together the torn edges using sutures. This is done to bring the healthy meniscus tissue back together, promoting healing and restoring the knee’s function and stability.

In cases where the damaged portion of the meniscus cannot be repaired, the surgeon may need to remove it through a procedure called a partial meniscectomy. However, whenever possible, the goal is to preserve as much healthy meniscus tissue as possible to maintain the knee’s integrity.

Once the repair is complete, the surgical instruments are removed, and the incisions are closed with stitches or adhesive strips. A sterile dressing may be applied to the knee, and a brace or bandage may be used to provide support during the initial stages of recovery.

Meniscus Repair Surgery Recovery

Recovering from meniscus repair surgery involves several stages. Initially, patients may need to use crutches to avoid putting weight on the knee. They’ll likely wear a knee brace to provide support and limit movement during the first few weeks.

Physical therapy plays a crucial role in recovery, helping to strengthen the muscles around the knee, improve flexibility, and restore normal movement. Therapists guide patients through exercises designed to gradually increase strength and range of motion.

Recovery times vary depending on the extent of the injury and the type of surgery performed. Most people can return to light activities within a few weeks but may need several months to fully recover and resume sports or strenuous activities. It’s essential to follow the rehabilitation plan provided by your healthcare team to ensure a successful recovery and minimize the risk of re-injury.

Schedule a Consultation Today

Meniscus repair surgery can provide relief from knee pain and restore function for individuals with meniscus injuries. If you’re experiencing knee pain or suspect a meniscus injury, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Orthopedic Specialists & Sports Medicine. 

With locations in Granville and Coshocton, OH, our team of orthopedic specialists can provide expert care and guidance to help you get back on your feet. Schedule an appointment today to start your journey toward a healthier, pain-free knee.

Medically reviewed by Brad L. Bernacki, MD