Torn Meniscus

Torn Meniscus

Meniscus Tear Treatment Options

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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.

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When to Seek Treatment

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 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.

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

Visit Duke Orthopaedics Urgent Care
Our convenient orthopaedic urgent care locations in Durham, Apex, and Wake Forest are open seven days a week. Get fast service with no long waits and no unnecessary exposure to illness. No appointment needed; walk-ins are welcome.

Duke Orthopaedics
Duke Health offers orthopaedic clinics in Durham, Raleigh, Cary, Apex, Knightdale, and other locations throughout the Triangle.

Do You Need Meniscus Surgery?

Thorough Evaluation
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. Duke knee specialists conduct a thorough examination to determine whether you need meniscus surgery. 

  • X-rays eliminate the possibility of broken bones or the presence of arthritis
  • MRI evaluates 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.

Wear-and-Tear Injuries
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.

Returning to Sports Activities
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.

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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.

Partial Meniscectomy

Your surgeon preserves and repairs as much of the meniscus cartilage as possible by trimming the torn edges.

Meniscus Repair

May be recommended in young patients depending on the type of meniscus tear. In this procedure, the torn meniscus is sewn back together using small, often dissolvable stitches.

Meniscus Transplant

This may be an option if the entire meniscus is torn and has to be removed. If may be recommended if you are young, have normal alignment, and no arthritis in your knee. The transplanted meniscus, which is donated from a cadaver, uses plugs to secure it to the native bone, and stitches to secure it to the joint capsule.

Nonsurgical Options

Physical Therapy

Knee-specific exercises strengthen the muscles that surround and stabilize the knee joint. Physical therapy will help prepare your knee for surgery, and help you get back to your normal activities faster after surgery. It rarely eliminates the need for meniscus surgery in a younger person or someone without any arthritis.

Office-Based Cortisone Injections

Cortisone injections temporarily decrease the pain associated with a tear but cannot heal a meniscus tear.

Duke University Hospital is nationally ranked in 10 adult specialties
Best Orthopaedic Hospital in North Carolina
Where you receive your care matters. Duke University Hospital’s nationally ranked orthopaedics program was named best in North Carolina by U.S. News & World Report for 2019–2020.