Dear Doctor: Torn Meniscus in the Knee
By Dr. Timothy M. Noonan
Who hasn’t had an injury… but what about injuries to the knee? I was recently asked the following question:
What is a torn meniscus? How is that different from arthritis of the knee?
The medial and lateral menisci of the knee are two crescent shaped discs of tough cartilage tissue that lie between the ends of the upper leg bone and lower leg bone that form the knee joint. Meniscus tears commonly occur during sports when the knee is twisted while the foot is planted firmly on the ground.
In people over the age of 40 whose menisci are worn down, a tear might occur with minimal trauma or normal movements. A meniscus tear can cause pain typically worse with certain movements. It can also cause swelling and mechanical locking or popping.
The treatment of a meniscus tear is usually operative arthroscopic debridement, although non-operative options do exist. Arthroscopic surgery is an outpatient procedure that lasts about 30 minutes. The inside of the knee joint is visualized through a small camera. Special small instruments are used to debride the tear.
In contrast, arthritis is a wear and tear of the cartilage of the knee joint over years. Joints contain cartilage, a rubbery material that cushions the end of the bones. The most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis. Over time the cartilage wears away and the bones of the joint rub together. Bone spurs may form and the knee may become stiff. Treatment options are numerous with a knee replacement as a last option. A knee replacement is a resurfacing procedure where any remaining cartilage and a small portion of bone are resected from the ends of the bones and are replaced with an artificial metal cap.
Dr. Timothy M. Noonan is an Orthopaedic Surgeon for the UT Health Science Center at Houston and provides patient care at UT Physicians at Cinco Ranch located at 23923 Cinco Ranch Blvd., Katy, TX 77494. To schedule an appointment, please call 713-486-5300.