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Q: What is a meniscus tear, and how is it treated?

Posted September 24, 2014 in Advice Column, Waukee

A: Knee pain is one of the most common presenting complaints at most orthopaedic surgery offices. Meniscus tears are the most common knee injury seen at orthopaedic centers. Menisci are cartilage structures in our knees that act as shock absorbers.

While menisci are very good at absorbing compressive loads, they can be easily torn with twisting movements. Another common mechanism of injury for damaging a meniscus is very deep bending, especially deep bending while carrying or lifting heavy loads.

Pain over the inner or outer knee is the most common sign of a meniscal tear. Swelling in the knee is also frequently seen with meniscus tears. Screening X-rays or an MRI are typically taken for patients with persistent pain in the knee.

Nonsurgical treatment consists of rest, ice, anti-inflammatory medications and physical therapy. Unfortunately, the majority of the meniscus has a very poor blood supply, which leads to poor healing, making surgical treatment of meniscal tears frequently necessary. Knee arthroscopy is an outpatient surgery that can be used to either trim or repair a torn meniscus. Thankfully, recovery from knee arthroscopy is typically rapid.

Information provided by Dr. Chris Nelson, Hip and Knee Surgeon, Des Moines Orthopaedic Surgeons, 6001 Westown Parkway, (515) 224-4230

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