What Should I Expect from Meniscus Surgery?

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison

The meniscus is the c-shaped cartilage padding located on either side of a person’s knee joint. Sometimes this padding is torn or damaged. Meniscus surgery is used to repair or removed the damaged tissue. Among the things most people can expect from meniscus surgery are small incisions, the use of a small camera to see inside the knee and the use of a general anesthetic. Many patients are able to return home the same day the surgery is performed.

A diagram of the knee, showing the lateral and medial menisci.
A diagram of the knee, showing the lateral and medial menisci.

One of the things a person can expect from meniscus surgery is a lack of pain during the procedure. Patients are put under general anesthesia in most cases or kept pain free with spinal anesthesia. General anesthesia puts a patient to sleep, so he doesn’t feel or remember the surgery. Spinal anesthesia blocks pain in the lower body.

A person wearing a meniscus brace.
A person wearing a meniscus brace.

During meniscus surgery, a surgeon uses a small camera, called an arthroscope, to view the inside of the patient’s knee joint. He makes only small incisions, usually two or three, through which he can access the knee. He places the camera and small instruments used for the operation through these incisions.

A scalpel is a small, sharp knife that is used in surgeries to make incisions.
A scalpel is a small, sharp knife that is used in surgeries to make incisions.

Other things a person can expect from meniscus surgery depend on the procedure the surgeon performs. A partial meniscectomy involves locating the damaged part of the padding and removing it. With the help of the arthroscope and a surgical probe, the surgeon locates the torn portion of meniscus and removes it using small instruments he places through the incisions. He then trims the edge of the meniscus, flushes the joint with a saline solution, and stitches the wounds shut.

The process of knee surgery recovery begins immediately following the procedure.
The process of knee surgery recovery begins immediately following the procedure.

Sometimes sutures are used to repair a section of torn cartilage rather than removing it from the body. For this, a surgeon uses special instruments to make the torn edges rougher and then sews the edges of it together. In other cases, suture anchors are used to repair a torn meniscus, functioning like staples or pins that hold the padding together. The suture anchors used in meniscus surgery are surgical fasteners that the body eventually absorbs.

Sometimes repair of the meniscus isn’t possible. In such a case, a surgeon may remove it and transplant a donor meniscus. The surgeon sews the donor meniscus onto the patient’s tibia, a bone in the lower leg. In some cases, anchors are used to keep it in place as well.

Like all surgeries, there are some complication risks with meniscus surgery. Among the possible complications are infection, abnormal blood clotting, and abnormal bleeding. Some people may develop problems related to anesthesia or have transplants or anchors that fail. For example, an anchor could break off, or the body could reject a transplanted meniscus. Most people recover from meniscus surgery without serious complications, however.

Another thing a person can expect from meniscus surgery is to go home quickly. Most people are released from the hospital on the same day the surgery is performed. If there are complications from the procedure or anesthetic, a patient may spend a couple of days in the hospital while they are resolved.

Sometimes it is not possible to repair the meniscus.
Sometimes it is not possible to repair the meniscus.
Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a wiseGEEK writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

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Discussion Comments

anon1001755

I had surgery one week ago. Although my knee is still painful it is no longer something that I can't handle. In fact, it feels better now than it has in months.

On the day after surgery, I mowed the lawn ( tractor not walk behind) I did steps and have felt better every day since.

anon1001339

I was pain free for 13 years, until it tore again. I am now recuperating from my second tear. This time I had two tears.

Spotiche5

@ocelot60- Meniscus surgery patients should also avoid putting too much weight on their legs for several months. Activities that could result in problems are running, climbing stairs, and lifting heavy objects too soon following surgery. Patients' doctors should provide informed details about what to avoid after surgery in order to promote proper healing of the meniscus.

Rundocuri

@ocelot60- Sometimes meniscus surgery doesn't improve a person's knee problems, but this is usually only the case when the patient doesn't follow his or her doctor's instructions.

Following meniscus surgery, resting and keeping off your feet is vital to healing. If you rush into getting back to your normal activities, you will risk tearing the repaired meniscus. It is also important to follow your doctor's recommendations for rehabilitation after your surgery. These will most likely include physical therapy and certain types of mild exercises.

Ocelot60

I have heard that meniscus surgery is not always successful, and sometimes the pain returns. Does anyone have an thoughts about this outcome?

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