When Does a Meniscus Tear Require Surgery?

When Does a Meniscus Tear Require Surgery?

Americans are no strangers to knee injuries, which makes sense given that your knees are responsible for your support, mobility, and range of motion. While there are several ways your knees can be damaged, in this article, we’re focusing on meniscus tears and whether the problem should be solved surgically.

As sports medicine and musculoskeletal experts here at Orthopaedics of Atlanta and Aesthetic Institute, Dr. W. Joseph Absi and our team have one overriding priority — to promote pain-free movement in your body. 

When it comes to knee injuries, like meniscus tears, the ideal solution depends upon the extent of the damage and your goals, and we discuss these issues here.

The location and extent of the meniscus tear matters

One of the major factors in deciding whether your meniscus tear can benefit from surgery is the extent of the tear.

Your knees contain two menisci, which are wedge-shaped pieces of cartilage that act as shock absorbers between your thigh bone (femur) and shinbone (tibia).

Your menisci are divided into what we refer to as the “white zone” and “red zone.” Your red zone is the outer third of the tissue and with ample vascularization, which means tears confined to this area are more likely to heal on their own thanks to this access to resources.

Conversely, the remaining two-thirds of your meniscus is called the white zone because it lacks blood vessels and the healing resources that your blood might otherwise deliver.

So, one of the first factors we consider when deciding upon a treatment plan is whether your tear involves the white zone. If that is the case, your meniscus will not heal on its own and can benefit from surgical repair.

If your meniscus tear only involves the red zone, there’s a good chance that the tissue will heal, given enough time and rest.

That said, many of our patients still opt for surgical repair of meniscus tears that are confined to the red zone to speed the healing process along. When we said we recommend surgery based upon your goals, your lifestyle considerations play a role. For example, if you lead an active lifestyle and you need to rely on your knees, surgical repair of your meniscus may be your best path forward.

Minimally invasive repair of your meniscus

If you’re worried about surgery, we want to spend a brief moment putting some of those fears to rest. At our practice, we use the most advanced techniques available, namely arthroscopy, to repair your meniscus.

With this technique, board-certified orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Absi only needs to make very small incisions, through which he threads a specialized camera and tools to trim away and repair your meniscus tear.

In most cases, Dr. Absi can perform your meniscus repair on an outpatient basis, meaning you’re free to go home the same day.

During your recovery, we recommend participating in physical therapy, which will allow you to regain full (and pain-free!) function of your knee more quickly.

The bottom line is that we hesitate to say here whether you’ll require surgery for your meniscus tear — that decision is often yours to make. We can, however, say that arthroscopic repair of a torn meniscus is a highly successful and effective solution.

If you’d like to learn more, please don’t hesitate to contact our office in Smyrna, Georgia, to set up a consultation.

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