Meniscal tears are an extremely common injury that develops in the knee joint. The meniscus is a C-shaped piece of cartilage that cushions and stabilizes the knee and functions like a bushing between the two major bones of the knee. While they are tough pieces of tissue, repetitive motions or sudden twisting can cause them to tear. The most serious and debilitating tears can require meniscus surgery.
The decision to undergo any type of surgical treatment for the knee joint needs to be made on an informed basis. To get a clearer picture of what signs to watch for, we at Outpatient Joint Replacement Center of America have created this guide. Please feel free to contact a representative if you have any questions or want to learn more about our treatment options for knee injuries.
When Does Surgical Treatment for Meniscal Tears Become a Consideration?
In a number of cases, meniscal tears do not require surgery as they can be present and cause little to no symptoms. In those people who develop persistent symptoms of catching, buckling, or giving way, there may be a need to consider treatment and diagnosis.
When diagnosing a meniscal tear, doctors usually prescribe a course of conservative treatment. This can include rest, modifying daily activities, taking over-the-counter medication, using cold therapy and undergoing physical therapy. It is also extremely critical to avoid overstressing your knee when recovering from a meniscal tear to avoid worsening the injury.
If you are dealing with a meniscal tear and starting to consider surgical treatment, here are the major signs to watch for:
- A tear develops on the inner part of the meniscus: This is a very common indicator for surgery, as this part of the meniscus receives less blood flow
- Pain and mobility problems are severe and affect daily activities: Patients should consider surgery if there is persistent pain that is affecting the ability to perform normal functions at work, home or during sports or activities.
- A small minor tear worsens: If patients with a minor meniscal tear continue to put stress on the knee and don’t commit to rehabilitation, the tear can increase in size and require surgical resection or more rarely, repair.
- Symptoms are not responding to nonsurgical therapies: Physical therapy and lifestyle changes can help meniscal tears by reducing stress on the knee, strengthening surrounding muscles and providing increased stability. Other interventions, including therapeutic injections, can help reduce inflammation to better facilitate physiotherapy. However, even patients who fully engage in nonsurgical therapy for weeks and months sometimes don’t see the improvement needed for a good quality of life.
If you decide to explore the possibility of surgery, it’s important to understand the full range of available options.
Surgical Treatment Options for Meniscal Tears Include Repair and Resection
There are a broad spectrum of approaches to meniscus repair surgery. In an arthroscopic meniscus surgery, the objective is to access the knee joint and meniscus and either fix the tear or remove a small piece of the damaged meniscus that is causing mobility problems and symptoms in the knee. Recovery for this type of surgical treatment for a meniscal tear can vary. Typical time frames can range from a few weeks to several months.
In some cases, especially in patients where there is knee joint damage or advanced arthritis in addition to a meniscal tear, a partial or total joint replacement surgery may be recommended by the surgeon. For example, many patients with degenerative or posttraumatic arthritis who also develop meniscal tears are potential candidates for knee joint replacement.
In this type of procedure, the surgeon replaces or resurfaces the knee joint. In a total joint replacement, the entire surface is replaced while only one part or compartment is replaced in a partial knee replacement. Partial joint replacements allow for knee ligaments and cartilage that are not affected by damage to remain.
During a knee replacement procedure, the surgeon uses a small incision to access the affected area of the knee joint. Supporting structures of the knee are carefully moved aside, allowing the surgeon to reach the treatment area to remove and resurface damaged joint material. Following this removal, the surgeon will prepare the surfaces of the knee to place the implant.
You may be a good potential candidate for a knee replacement if you have knee pain that persists after a course of conservative treatment. A partial knee replacement can be recommended for patients with a stable anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), who have sufficient range of motion, and have experienced damage to only one section of the knee. More extensive knee damage may require total knee replacement.
Thanks to advances in technology, surgical techniques and anesthesia protocols, these procedures can be performed on an outpatient basis.
The OJRCA Difference
If you have been suffering from chronic and disruptive knee pain as a result of arthritis, meniscal tears and other causes or contributors to joint damage, outpatient knee replacement can be an effective option for lasting relief. At OJRCA, our goal is to provide our patients with a return to an active lifestyle. Part of this commitment is a dedication to the benefits of outpatient surgical treatment whenever possible.
While there is typically no age restriction for outpatient knee surgery, patients do require a full health screening to determine if there are medical conditions that would preclude outpatient surgeries. However, even those who do require inpatient knee replacement can still benefit from the advancements in care guidelines that promote a more streamlined recovery process.
Undergoing surgical treatment for a meniscal tear or any knee condition is a big decision, which is why finding a surgeon, staff and practice you can trust is such a critical aspect of your journey. Dr. Phillip Clifford and the entire OJRCA team are passionate about treating their patients like family.
If you’d like to learn more about the full range of meniscal tear treatment options, contact us today. We’ll tell you how to find out if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures.