The knee joint consists of three bones - the thigh bone (or femur), shin bone (or tibia) and the knee cap (or patella), which is responsible for movement. The meniscus is a 'C' shaped and tough cartilage which attaches the shin bone (tibia) and the knee bone (femur). Also known as the knee cartilage, the menisci are of two types - medial meniscus and lateral meniscus. The medial meniscus is located on the inner side of the knee and the lateral meniscus is attached to the outer knee. An over stretching of the meniscus can result in tearing of the ligament. In case of severe meniscus tear, correction may consist of surgery to repair torn meniscus.
What is Meniscus?
As we have seen earlier, the meniscus is a strong cartilage that is similar in structure, to the bones on which it is attached. The main function of the meniscus cartilage is to distribute the weight of the entire body equally on both the knees. It also makes the knee joint more stable and prevents wobbling. A failure to do so may result in excessive force on the knee joint due to which it may deteriorate and lead to arthritis of the joints of the knees.
Sometimes due to some reasons, the meniscus may suffer trauma and cause a lot of discomfort and knee pain. A torn meniscus is one of the most common types of sports injury as a result of a fall or overuse of the joint. It is also a degenerative disease, which is seen mostly in the older people. In case the torn meniscus is severe in nature, then the individual may have to undergo surgery for torn meniscus.
When is Surgery Required?
Injury to the meniscus cartilage can be a discomforting condition, since it restricts movement and the affected person is confined to bed, hampering his daily activities. In case of moderate injury to the meniscus, the affected knee is tightly wrapped in a bandage and kept in an elevated position. Application of warm or cold compress may reduce the swelling and relieve the pain. But if it is serious in nature, like the cartilage is completely torn off from the bone, then it needs prompt medical attention, where the doctor may refer surgery to treat this condition.
Meniscus Repair Surgery
As discussed before, a tear in the meniscus can occur when the knee gets twisted as a result of a fall. One of the most common meniscus tear symptoms is severe pain in the affected knee and inability to move the knee without triggering pain. The knee may also swell as a result of accumulation of fluid. In minor injuries, the knee is wrapped in a bandage and is kept elevated above the level of the heart. Movement is also forbidden. In case of meniscus pain, the doctor may prescribe pain killers and anti-inflammatory drugs to relieve pain. But in case the condition is severe, then the individual may have to undergo surgery.
Before the surgery, the exact condition of the meniscus cartilage and the severity of the tear is diagnosed with the help of an MRI scan. The general health of the patient is also monitored. The procedure takes a few hours to be completed as compared to open knee surgery. This surgery is carried out under general anesthesia. The procedure for meniscus repair is done with the help of an arthroscope, fitted with a camera, as a part of the torn meniscus treatment. The arthroscope is an instrument which is fitted with optical fibers and lenses to get a close picture of the injury.
The arthroscopic surgery for meniscus tear involves the insertion of an arthroscope or endoscope. This is done in order to view the site and severity of the injury by inserting the arthroscope into the joint through an incision. The images can be seen on a monitor. Once the instrument is inserted into the affected knee and the diagnosis is done, the surgeon injects some fluids to clear the torn tissues and other debris at the site of the injury. The torn ligament is trimmed with the help of a shaver and the remaining cartilage is attached to the bone. Sometimes, if the cartilage is beyond repair, then it may have to be completely replaced. The meniscus surgery cost may range from USD 4,500 to USD 30,000 depending on the severity of the injury.
The recovery period is faster as compared to the traditional open surgery, since it involves only minimal incision. The patient can return home after the surgery. Post surgery care is essential to prevent the wound from getting infected. There will be a slight swelling at the site of the surgery, so the doctor may advice the patient to keep the knee elevated. He may also recommend ice compress, but make sure that too much pressure is not applied.
The dressing should be changed regularly. Movement of the leg should be restricted to aid the healing process. Medications like anti coagulants may also be prescribed to prevent the formation of blood clots at the site of the surgical wound. The recovery time may vary from individual to individual. The recovery period is approximately 6 to 8 weeks, after which normal routine can be resumed.
The recovery from surgery also depends on the severity of the tear and the person's response to the treatment. One must also be aware of the complications of meniscus surgery, so that these can be avoided with proper post operative care. Physical therapy is also given to the person who has undergone surgery. Take care!