What is a meniscus?
Meniscus is a horseshoe shaped soft cushion like structures (like the half dough-nut) present in the knee joint. Each knee has two menisci, one in the inner (medial) and the other in the outer (lateral) side.
What are the functions of meniscus?
The most important function of the menisci is to share the load passing through the knee joint during various activities and to protect the cartilage of the knee. More than 50% of the knee load is transmitted through the menisci. Other functions of the menisci are as follows.
- The menisci function as the shock absorber of the knee.
- The Menisci give additional stability to the knee.
- The menisci play a role in the nutrition & lubrication of the knee.
- The menisci help in recognizing the knee movement and position.
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What are the causes of meniscal tear?
Meniscal injuries can occur at any age. In younger people (under 30 years), the meniscus is a fairly tough and rubbery structure. Tears usually occur as a result of a forceful twisting injury more likely to be caused by a sport activity. People of older ages often end up with a tear as result of a minor injury, such as from the up-and- down motion of squatting.
What are the symptoms of meniscal tear?
The most common problem caused by a torn meniscus is pain. The pain may be felt along the edge of the knee joint or may be vague and involve the whole knee.
The knee may swell, causing it to feel stiff and tight. This is because fluid accumulates inside the knee. This is sometimes called water in the knee.
The knee joint can also lock up if the tear is large enough. Locking refers to the inability to completely straighten out the knee. This can happen when a fragment of the meniscus tear is free and gets caught in the knee, like a pencil stuck in the hinge of a door.
How is a meniscal tear diagnosed?
X-rays will not show the torn meniscus. X-rays are mainly useful to determine if other injuries are present.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is very good at showing the meniscus. MRI creates pictures that look like slices of the area.
What are the treatments for meniscal tear?
1) Partial Meniscectomy
The procedure to take out the damaged portion of the meniscus is called a partial meniscectomy. Surgeons would rather not take out the entire meniscus. Removal of the meniscus increases the risk of knee arthritis.
2) Meniscal Repair
Young people who have recently torn their meniscus are generally good candidates for repair. Older patients with degenerative tears are not.
3) Meniscal Transplantation
Surgeons are trying different ways to replace a damaged meniscus. One way is by transplanting tissue, called an allograft, from another person's body. Further investigation is needed to see how well these patients do over a longer period of time.