Recovery After A Torn Meniscus | Revere Health

If you’ve never heard of a meniscus, it is a crescent-shaped structure in the knee made of cartilage that acts as a shock absorber between the shinbone and thighbone. You have two menisci in each knee, and they help stabilize and cushion the joint. Even though the meniscus is tough and rubbery, it is not uncommon for it to tear. In fact, meniscus tears are among the most common knee injuries.

What does having a torn meniscus mean?

Some meniscus tears are degenerative; that is, use of the knee over time causes wear and tear on the meniscus that eventually leads to tearing. However, meniscus tears are more often caused by trauma to the knee, such as an impact or a sudden twist in the knee. Treatment for a meniscal tear depends on its severity, location and the type of tear you have. A tear on the outer rim of the meniscus, where there is a good blood supply, may heal on its own, and a mild tear may not require meniscus tear surgery at all. Your doctor will probably order an imaging scan, such as an MRI, to determine if you have a meniscus tear and whether it requires conservative or surgical treatment.

Meniscus tears require surgery typically for two reasons:

  1. They are on the inner portion, or “white zone,” of the meniscus and cannot heal on their own because they do not receive a supply of blood.
  2. The meniscus tear is unstable. Movement of the joint causes the torn portion to flap around, and an unstable meniscus tear can cause the knee to lock up. It can also get caught on the internal structures of the knee and tear further. An unstable meniscus tear needs surgery before it gets any worse.

How long does it take to heal after surgery?

The answer to this question depends on many different factors. Perhaps the most significant factor is what kind of meniscus tear surgery you undergo. There are essentially three types of meniscus tear surgeries:

  1. Partial meniscectomy (also called meniscal debridement): the removal of the torn flap of the meniscus, resulting in the quickest recovery time of the three procedures
  2. Meniscal repair: a procedure in which a surgeon sews the torn fragment of the flap down with stitches
  3. Total meniscectomy: a rarely performed procedure that involves complete removal of the meniscus

Recovery time from a meniscal repair will take longer than recovery from a partial meniscectomy as you will need to keep the knee immobilized in a brace for a while to keep the stitches from tearing. A rough estimate of time needed to recover from a meniscus tear surgery is about four to six weeks.

Will I still be able to do the things I enjoy?

Recovery from meniscus tear surgery will always take time, during which your doctor will ask you to limit your activities. However, if you follow your doctor’s instructions and don’t try to push it, eventually you should make a complete recovery and be able to go back to your normal activities without restriction.

If you have pain, popping or locking of your knee, you should see a doctor right away to determine if you have a meniscus tear.

Dr. Larsen chose to become an orthopedic surgeon after growing up watching his father work in the same profession. He observed the love his father had for taking care of people and improving lives by fixing problems with their knees and shoulders. Dr. Larsen enjoys communicating with his patients and working together to find a solution, either through surgery or lifestyle changes.

This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.

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