Health A-Z

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There are several options for treating a torn meniscus:

  • Nonsurgical This may include a temporary knee brace and rehabilitation to keep the knee muscles strong while the knee is not bearing as much weight. This approach is most effective for small tears (5 millimeters or less) near the edge of the meniscus, where healing is usually good, or for people who are not good candidates for surgery.

  • Surgery to repair the tear If the tear is large (1 to 2 centimeters), but it involves part of the meniscus where there is enough blood supply for healing, the doctor may be able to repair it with stitches.

  • Surgery to remove part of the meniscus (partial meniscectomy) If the tear involves part of the meniscus where healing is poor, the surgeon may trim away ragged edges along the tear to allow the joint to move smoothly.

  • Surgery to remove the entire meniscus (total meniscectomy) This option is used for tears that cannot be treated any other way. Doctors try to avoid this, because it leaves the knee without a meniscus and greatly increases the wear on the ends of the femur and tibia. In the long run, this also increases the risk of osteoarthritis (degenerative joint disease) in the knee.

If you need surgery to correct a torn meniscus, it usually can be done using arthroscopy (camera-guided surgery) as a same-day procedure. After the procedure, you will begin physical therapy to help strengthen your knee muscles, reduce pain and swelling, and return the knee's full range of motion.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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