The meniscus sits in the knee as two C-shaped pads of cartilage, acting as shock absorbers. People with knee arthritis often suffer a painful meniscus tear. McLeod Orthopaedic Specialist Eric Heimberger, MD, explains treating this issue:
Here’s a summary of Dr. Heimberger’s remarks:
Meniscus tears are very common in people with arthritic knees. In fact, most people that have a bad arthritic knee, will have a shredded, torn or degenerative meniscus that shows up on a MRI. But that person isn’t treated for the meniscus tear. They’re treated for their arthritic problem, because that’s what is causing most of their pain. If it’s a normal knee with no arthritis and the person has a meniscus tear, they often undergo arthroscopic surgery.
Usually, an X-ray is enough to show you the arthritis. If the person didn’t have much arthritis, then we’d do an MRI. If the MRI shows that the tear isn’t getting any better, then you would usually do arthroscopic surgery.
A meniscus is cartilage and doesn’t have a blood supply. So, a torn meniscus can’t heal itself. Once it tears, it’s always torn. On some patients, it stops hurting after a while. I often have people coming back with an MRI that shows a tear, but their symptoms are gone. If they have no pain, I’m not going to operate.
In fact, recent studies shown that if you operate on people with meniscus tears and a fair amount of arthritis in their knee, it can actually make their condition worse.
Traditionally, a surgeon would go in there and clean out the knee with an arthroscopic camera. But we don’t do that anymore, because that person probably just needed one knee replacement surgery rather than having 2 surgeries – the arthroscopic and the knee replacement.