Treating a Meniscus Tear: When Is Knee Surgery the Best Solution?

A meniscus tear is an injury that affects the cartilage in your knee. Cartilage cushions the bones in your joints, and a tear can cause significant pain, swelling, and stiffness.

When it first happens, you may be able to continue bearing weight and using your knee. But within a few days, pain, swelling, and stiffness can severely impact your range of motion.

Meniscus tears are common in athletes. You could be at risk for a meniscus tear if you play high-contact sports that involve running and tackling. But meniscus tears don’t just affect athletes. An awkward twist or bend of the knee might be enough to tear the meniscus. 

Aron Rovner, MD and our team at New York Spine and Sports Surgery are experts in diagnosing and treating common orthopedic injuries, including meniscus tears. Call us or book an appointment online today to find the best treatment for your meniscus tear.

Understanding meniscus tears

Your knee joint is made up of three bones: the femur (thigh bone), tibia (shin bone), and patella (kneecap). These bones work together with tendons, ligaments, and cartilage to give your knee motion.

The meniscus is the rubbery cartilage in the space between your femur and your tibia. It’s wedge-shaped, and its job is to stabilize your knee and cushion the joint as you move. 

Meniscus tears can take different forms, depending on the part of the meniscus that’s injured. In most cases, you can still walk on the knee after you tear your meniscus. However, pain and swelling increase the longer you wait to seek treatment. 

Common signs of a meniscus tear include:

While this knee injury is common with contact sports, you might suffer a meniscus tear even if you don’t play sports. Bending and twisting your knee awkwardly can result in torn cartilage.

Meniscus tears are a risk as you age, and they’re called degenerative meniscus tears. Cartilage gets weaker and more brittle as you get older, and simply twisting your knee when you sit could be enough to tear the meniscus. 

When to consider surgery for a meniscus tear

When you suffer a meniscus tear, Dr. Rovner diagnoses the condition with a physical exam that may include imaging and other testing. Small tears on the outside of the meniscus may heal on their own with conservative treatments like rest and elevation.

When your meniscus tear doesn’t heal with more conservative treatment, knee surgery can restore strength and stability to your knee. If you’ve suffered a severe meniscus tear, it may be unlikely that the tear will heal on its own. In these cases, surgery helps you get back on your feet.

Dr. Rovner employs minimally invasive surgical techniques to repair meniscus tears whenever possible. Arthroscopic knee surgery involves making very small incisions in the knee. Using specialized tools, Dr. Rovner removes pieces of damaged cartilage and may use sutures to reconnect torn pieces of cartilage.

Scarring and tissue damage are minimal with arthroscopic surgery, and your recovery time may be significantly shorter than surgery with traditional methods. Be sure to follow our team’s guidelines for recovery, including doing your rehabilitation exercises, so you can have the best possible recovery. 

Meniscus tears are one of the most common types of knee injury. They can put you on the sidelines, but we’re here to help you find the right treatment based on the severity of your tear. Call one of our offices in Garden City, New York, or Fair Lawn, New Jersey, or book an appointment online to learn more.

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