The meniscus is a crescent-shaped fibro-cartilage. There are two in each knee. They distribute the load that goes through the joint, and also provide some stability to the knee.
Tears of a meniscus are quite common. A simple twist of the knee could be sufficient to cause a tear. Once torn it often does not heal. Symptoms arising from a torn meniscus may include:
- Swelling of the joint
- Sense of instability
Until the early 1990s, such injuries were treated with complete surgical excision or removal of the cartilage. Unfortunately patients treated by this method developed early arthritis and, hence, nowadays, the meniscus is no longer completely excised.
The most common form of treatment of meniscal injuries is removal only of the torn fragment, performed via keyhole surgery (a procedure known as arthroscopy). The instruments used are very fine, finer than a pencil, and are introduced into the joint through very small cuts made in the skin. It is usually carried out as a day case; the patient being allowed home on the day of surgery. This is an extremely safe operation, the chances of significant complication following this surgery being less than 1%.
In a small number of cases, it may be possible to repair the torn cartilage. This is preferable in children and young adults but should be undertaken only by experienced knee surgeons. I have researched and found that repair of the meniscus in young adults, where possible, is very highly successful and should be attempted.