Meniscus is a soft, rubber-like C-shaped cushion in between the bones of the knee. There are two of them – one on the inner side and one on the outer side. They participate in sharing load across the knee. There are two problems which occur in menisci – one that it degenerates (becomes week) with age, and the other that it tears due to injury. A degeneration in the meniscus causes pain, having become softer it often breaks with minimum injury. A typical meniscus tear occurs in young adults, as a result of twisting injury. The torn meniscus becomes a ‘misfit’ in the joint, and gives rise to mechanical symptoms such as locking catching, clicking etc. Over a period of time, these mechanical symptoms cause damage to soft covering (cartilage) over the bones. This is called osteoarthritis, and is irreversible damage to the joint.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q 1. How to know that your problem is due to meniscus tear?
ANS 1: Typically the person gets a twisting injury, which results in repeated pain, catching, locking etc. Often the symptoms are vague, and diagnosis can only be clinched on MRI.
Q 2. What is the treatment of meniscus tear?
ANS 2: Till a few decades back meniscus was considered a vestigial structure, and was removed mercilessly for whatever reason. Soon, side effects of this approach became clear and the trend today is to save the meniscus. A small tear can heal itself. A bigger tear, whenever possible, is sutured. If suturing is not possible, a part of itis excised arthroscopically (partial menisectomy). There are efforts toward transplanting meniscus from cadaver, and also implanting artificial menisci. This is yet not commonly done in India.
Q 3. How is surgery done for meniscus tear?
ANS 3: Surgery is done by key-hole technique (arthroscopic surgery), under anaesthesia from an injection in the back. It takes from 15-20 minutes to do the job. One is able to walk on his/her legs within 24 hours. If meniscus suturing is required it may take longer.