A torn meniscus is a common injury resulting from the knee being twisted or rotated forcefully. The meniscus is a C shaped cartilage that sits between the condyles of the femur and tibia. There are several different types of meniscal tears: bucket handle, flap, radial, and degenerative (below left to right). The first three types are generally due to a twisting injury. Degenerative tears are also known as complex tears. They occur in older patients due to the break down of the cartilage.
The symptoms associated with a meniscal tear are pain, swelling, locking, catching, and giving out. Locking is a common symptom in bucket handle and flap tears. Physical examination and symptoms are a good indicator of meniscal tears. MRI is the test of choice and allow providers to visualize soft tissue. Some meniscal tears can be treated conservatively with physical therapy and injections. Some will require surgical intervention. Not all meniscal tears are repairable. Only 1/3 of the meniscus receives blood supply. Tears in this area can heal on their own or be repaired. The other 2/3s will need to be smoothed out to prevent reoccurring symptoms. For my patients, conservative treatment is attempted, but in most scenarios the patient needs to have an arthroscopy to resolve their symptoms.