The meniscus is a rubbery piece of cartilage used to cushion the knee. The knee is comprised of two menisci, located on the outer and inner areas, with the purpose of stabilizing the knee and distributing weight evenly. Injuries to the meniscus can result in decreased mobility of the knee.
Meniscus tears can occur as a result of injuries to the knees or conditions like osteoarthritis. The injury typically happens with sudden pivoting, twisting or rotating movements while the foot is fixed in place and the knee bent. Athletes that participate in sports such as football, basketball, soccer and tennis are at higher risk for meniscus tears. As the meniscus does not receive blood supply, tears to the meniscus may be difficult to heal and can worsen over time.
Pain in the knee is the most common symptom of a meniscus tear. Other symptoms include stiffness and swelling, difficulty bending and straightening the leg, inability to support weight while standing, and popping and other sensations with movement of the knee. After the onset of injury, the knee will gradually become more stiff and swollen.
A meniscus tear is diagnosed by a physical examination that will check for tenderness along the joint- near the meniscus. The exam may also include the McMurray test. The McMurray test is one of the main tests in diagnosing a meniscus tear and involves placing tension on the meniscus. If the meniscus is torn there will be a clicking sound each time the test is performed.
Treatment methods for a torn meniscus include rest, activity modification, cold compresses, physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications taken orally or injected into the knee, and immobilization. Depending on the severity of the injury to the meniscus, surgery may be required. The type of surgery depends upon the location of the tear, as well as if other structures in the knee are involved. Surgical procedures include meniscus removal, meniscus repair, and (in rare instances) meniscus replacement.