The meniscus is a very important shock absorber of the knee made of a strong substance called fibrocartilage. It protects the surface of the joint and provides a mechanical cushion. A large percentage of our body weight is distributed through the meniscus as we walk, run, and jump. The meniscus adds to the stability of the knee joint by helping the shape of the femur bone conform to the tibia. The meniscus also plays a role in the nourishment of the smooth cartilage that covers the bones.
An acute meniscal tear may be heard as a “pop” and felt as a tear or rip in the knee. This may be followed by swelling of the knee as a result of blood or fluid accumulation. Patients with meniscal tears often describe a popping or catching in their knee. Some actually can feel something out of place. In the most dramatic situations the knee will actually “lock”, preventing the patient from fully straightening or bending the knee. The pain or discomfort is usually along the joint line or where the femur and tibia bone come together. It often starts out relatively painful; then with time, much (if not all) of the pain disappears except with certain activities. Some patients will have the tear become asymptomatic (no symptoms) for a time, especially if their activity level decreases significantly.
Dr. LaReau will perform a physical examination and complete review of your medical record to determine the extent of your condition and the appropriate treatment options available to you.
Since meniscal tears do not show up on plain X-rays (the meniscus does not contain calcium the way bones do), Dr. LaReau may perform some specialized tests, such as an MRI scan, which are helpful in further evaluating the damaged meniscus.
Depending on the severity of the meniscus tear, Dr. LaReau may utilize conservative treatment options to avoid surgery and allow the body’s own healing properties to work. If conservative treatment does not provide relief, Dr. LaReau may elect to recommend surgical intervention, often utilizing minimally invasive procedures, such as arthroscopic surgery to repair the torn meniscus area.
If Dr. LaReau elects to perform surgery, you may be wearing a brace for six weeks after your surgery while walking and placing weight on the repaired knee. While wearing the knee brace, Dr. LaReau will start you on a physical therapy program to strengthen your knee and help you return to your normal daily activities.