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The meniscus is a pad of specialized cartilage that is located between the femur and tibia bones in the knee joint. There are two menisci in the knee – one on the inside of the knee (medial meniscus) and one on the outside of the knee (lateral meniscus). The meniscus has several functions including: acting as a shock absorber or cushion, distributing load across the knee, decreasing friction, and adding to stability of the knee.
Meniscus tears typically occur as a result of twisting injuries to the knee. They can be caused by traumatic injury, often seen in athletes, or they can be degenerative in nature, tearing from minor trauma as the meniscus becomes more brittle with age. The symptoms of a meniscus tear include pain, swelling, locking, and inability to completely straighten the knee joint. An MRI is frequently obtained to diagnose a meniscus tear.
Treatment of meniscal tears depends on several factors including the type of tear, the location of the tear, and the activity level of the patient. Some patients can be treated nonoperatively. If surgery is necessary, minimally invasive arthroscopic techniques are used to either trim out the torn portion of the meniscus (partial meniscectomy) or to repair the meniscus.