The medial and lateral menisci are cartilaginous structures located in the knee joint between the tibia (shin bone) and femur (thigh bone). They serve many important functions, including load distribution, joint lubrication, and maintenance of stability. When the meniscus is injured, these functions are impaired, which can result in joint line pain and mechanical symptoms, such as clicking, popping, or locking. If left untreated, a meniscus tear may lead to the development of knee arthritis. A thorough history and physical examination are critical for diagnosing a meniscus tear. When a tear is suspected, an MRI is often performed to confirm the diagnosis.
Treatment of meniscal tears can often be performed arthroscopically. With the aid of a high-definition camera, instruments are inserted into the knee joint through small incisions. Treatment may involve either removing the torn portion of meniscus (meniscectomy) or repairing it (meniscus repair). The decision of whether to remove or repair the torn meniscus depends on the nature of the tear, the quality of the tissue, the presence of other injuries, and the patient’s age and activity level.
Weight bearing and range of motion may be restricted after a meniscus repair, and is dependent, in part, on the surgical procedure performed. The doctor will make a decision regarding weight bearing and return to function on a case-by-case basis. Regardless, physical therapy plays an important role during the rehabilitation process.