Most meniscus tears that remain painful are therefore treated by trimming or so called “partial menisectomy.” Surgery is done on an outpatient basis and typically takes less than one hour. There are no post-operative restrictions and patients can begin to bend their knee and put weight on their leg the day of surgery. Rates of recovery vary from patient to patient but most never need cane or crutches and many feel no need for physical therapy beyond what they can accomplish on their own at my direction. Most patients can resume unrestricted or normal activities within 2 to 6 weeks after surgery.
If the biology and location of the tear are appropriate for repair/stitching this is often preferable as it saves the cushioning function of the meniscus and decreases the risk of future arthritis. Repair does change the post-operative recovery plan. Most patients will be in a brace for several weeks and weight bearing on the operated leg is normally restricted for 6-8 weeks. Deep squatting and sports activity are usually not allowed for 4 months or so as these activities place high stress on the repair. The benefit of repair is the preservation of the meniscus function but not all repairs will heal and sometimes failure to completely heal can necessitate additional surgery. If your situation might benefit from a repair we will discuss these issues in detail prior to surgery.
Every surgery involves some risks and standard potential risks include blood clots in the leg and infection. Both of these are uncommon. The most significant issue is frequently the risk of persistent or progressive arthritic pain. As discussed above, most cartilage tears are “degenerative” in nature so patients almost always have some associated arthritis even if they were previously unaware of that diagnosis. Because the meniscus has an important role in cushioning the knee damage to the meniscus can unmask arthritis that previously was not causing symptoms. Often x-rays and MRI done before surgery will allow us to assess and discuss the likelihood of this risk before any surgery is undertaken. Some meniscus tears such as those that tear all the way through or break the “hoop” are at a much greater risk for this problem. Be assured that there are other treatments available should this become a problem.