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Meniscus Tear

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Treatment Overview

There are many things to consider when deciding how to treat your torn meniscus, including the extent and location of the tear, your pain level, your age and activity level, your doctor's preference, and when the injury occurred. Your treatment choices are:

Whenever possible, meniscus surgery is done using arthroscopy, rather than through a large cut in the knee.

The location (zone) of the tear camera.gif is one of the most important things that helps determine treatment.

  • Tears at the outer edge of the meniscus (red zone) tend to heal well because there is good blood supply. Minor tears may heal on their own with a brace and a period of rest. If they do not heal or if repair is deemed necessary, the tear can be sewn together. This repair is usually successful in the red zone.
  • The inner two-thirds (white zone) of the meniscus does not have a good blood supply, so it does not heal well either on its own or after repair. If torn pieces float into the joint space, which may result in a "locked" knee or cause other symptoms, the torn portion is removed (partial meniscectomy) and the edges of the remaining meniscus are shaved to make the meniscus smooth.
  • When the tear extends from the red zone into the white zone, there may be enough blood supply for healing. The tear may be repaired or removed. This is something the orthopedic surgeon decides during the surgery.

Also, the pattern of the tear camera.gif may determine whether a tear can be repaired. Longitudinal tears are often repairable. Radial tears may be repairable depending on where they are located. Horizontal and flap (oblique) tears are generally not repairable.

It is preferable to preserve as much of the meniscus as possible. If the meniscus can be repaired successfully, saving the injured meniscus by doing a meniscal repair reduces the occurrence of knee joint degeneration compared with partial or total removal (meniscectomy). Meniscus repair is more successful in younger people (experts think people younger than about 40 years old do best), in knees that have good stability from the ligaments, if the tear is in the red zone, and if the repair is done within the first few weeks after the injury (acute).1

Meniscal repair may prevent degenerative changes in the knee joint. Many doctors believe that a successful meniscus repair lowers the risk of early-onset arthritis, because it reduces the stress put on the knee joint.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: September 10, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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