Torn meniscus treatment

Options for treating meniscus tears

Meniscus tears can occur suddenly during a sports game, or from simple daily activities such as turning to put dishes away or twisting when someone calls your name. Damage to the meniscus cartilage that surrounds your knee can also result from years of wear and tear. Duke knee specialists evaluate the severity of your injury, where it’s located and the health of your knee joint before recommending meniscus surgery or another treatment. Our goal is to return you, pain-free, to the daily activities you enjoy.

When should you seek treatment for a torn meniscus?

When swelling, pain on walking and limited range of motion impact your ability to move, it’s time to see a knee specialist.

The meniscus is the cartilage that cushions and protects the knee joint and surrounding bones from the stresses of walking, running, bending and climbing. Forceful twists from sudden stops or pivots – common in football, hockey, soccer, lacrosse, tennis, and golf – or deep knee bends (from heavy lifting and similar activities) can cause the meniscus to tear. Because the meniscus is interlocked with knee ligaments, meniscus tears will sometimes occur at the same time as knee ligament injuries such as ACL tears. Meniscus tears can also occur over time.

If you need immediate care for your torn meniscus:

You can make an appointment within 24 hours. Depending on availability, you may be seen by an orthopaedic specialist the same day you call for an appointment.

You can get immediate care at Duke Orthopaedic Urgent Care. We provide orthopaedic-specific care at our convenient locations seven days a week. You will experience the convenience of fast service with no unnecessary exposure to sick people in the emergency room.

How is a torn meniscus treated?

Duke knee specialists conduct a thorough examination to determine whether you need meniscus surgery. Testing may include:

  • X-rays to eliminate the possibility of broken bones or the presence of arthritis
  • MRI to evaluate the soft tissues – muscles, cartilage, ligaments, and tendons -- surrounding the knee. An MRI helps knee specialists locate the specific part of the cartilage that is damaged.

Deciding on the right course of treatment for your torn meniscus depends on the severity of your injury, the location of the torn meniscus, and the health of your knee joint. Older people, whose meniscus tears are the result of age and wear and tear, may benefit from physical therapy, cortisone injections to reduce inflammation and non-steroidal pain medication.

Athletes who want to return to their normal level of activity may benefit from minimally invasive arthroscopic knee surgery – during which orthopaedic surgeons repair or remove the damaged meniscus -- and physical therapy. The same meniscus surgery and rehab that helps school athletes and professionals will also benefit weekend warriors who want to stay competitive in their local tennis, soccer or golf leagues.

  • Our orthopaedic program is ranked among the nation’s best by U.S. News & World Report. Many of our orthopaedic surgeons and doctors are fellowship trained. They perform more than 1,300 knee arthroscopies for meniscus tears and other knee injuries each year.
  • Our surgical success is based on decades of ongoing research at Duke. We use sophisticated tools to study patient outcomes and measure surgical success.

Meniscus surgery

Orthopaedic surgeons use arthroscopic knee surgery to repair your meniscus. During the meniscus surgery, a small instrument called an arthroscope, which has a camera at its tip, is inserted into your knee. Orthopaedic knee surgeons use arthroscopic knee surgery to pinpoint the location of the meniscus tear, and repair or remove the damage.

Non-surgical options

Ready for an appointment?
- call us at -