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What are the Remedy and Consequences of Leaving a Torn Meniscus Untreated?

2nd Aug 2021

A basketball game is certainly fun to watch because of the players’ agility to sprint, jump, swerve, and make some dunks to score points. Sometimes, they seem like they can do any of the actions without hurting each other.

However, that’s not the case because one wrong move can cost them a few weeks off the court and in some cases, can be much longer than that. The same can happen to you and other sports players as a torn ligament or meniscus can be both painful and debilitating.

Having said that, many athletes assume that they can continue sporting without treating their torn meniscus, thinking that it will heal on its own. While it’s true that a minor meniscus tear can heal on its own, most cases of a torn meniscus will require some form of treatment, otherwise, things can get worse.

The following are some of the things that can develop if your torn meniscus is left untreated:

 Pieces of your meniscus can become loose and enter your knee joint, potentially causing excruciating pain or limiting your range of motion.

 Pain, swelling, and inflammation can increase over time.

 The actual tear can increase in size over time and lead to other issues like locking up the knee joint

 Knee surgery may be required in the future to restore full knee function.

Should you opt to undergo surgery, the recovery time from a torn meniscus surgery will vary depending on the technique used. If you had a partial meniscectomy, you might be able to return to sports in about 4 to 6 weeks. However, if you had a meniscus repair, it may take longer about 3 to 6 months before you can play sports again.

Is Surgery Necessary to Treat a Torn Meniscus?

Like any other knee injury, not all meniscus tears require surgery. In very few cases, meniscus tears will heal on their own without surgery. Therefore, it is important to understand that not all meniscus tears will cause symptoms.

Meniscus tears can occur naturally as we age but they can also happen due to injuries from contact or non-contact sports. The latter is likely to occur among athletes because the tissue is still rubbery and strong. When it tears, it tends to do so without the frayed edges and in a single line. These types of tears may be more responsive to surgical treatment.

The surgical technique used to treat your meniscus tear will depend on the cause of your meniscus tear, its location, the shape and size of your meniscus tear. Your surgeon’s experience and preference as well as your age, health, and activity level can also affect your treatment options.

Location of the torn meniscus

If the damage is on the outer portion of the meniscus, it will heal on its own given the good supply of blood. However, if the tear is in the inner two-thirds of the meniscus, surgical treatment is necessary as this area doesn’t have a good supply of blood and will not heal on its own. Surgery will help to either trim or remove the tear.

Stability of torn meniscus

The stability of a meniscus tear can also affect your treatment options. If the meniscus is partially torn, you may not need surgery. But if the tear extends through the meniscus, it will become unstable and less likely to heal as unstable tears tend to pull apart or cause symptoms before any healing can occur. Hence, surgery is necessary to stabilise the meniscus tear.

Before you decide to get the surgery, there are several factors you need to consider such as recovery time. Because if you want full recovery, you will need to restrict yourself from any sporting activities that can hinder your recovery progress.

That said, getting a meniscus tear surgery recovery can help you get back to playing your sports or other activities without any pain in your knee. It also helps to improve your knee’s mobility, make it more stable, prevent or slow the development of arthritis, and reduce or completely relieve your knee pain.

torn meniscus

Surgical Options for Meniscus Tear

Treating meniscus tear is usually an outpatient procedure and it is always done arthroscopically. Surgery is done to preserve healthy meniscus tissue while working to repair your torn knee cartilage. Below are the techniques commonly used by surgeons or orthopaedics to treat a torn meniscus.

Arthroscopic meniscectomy

This surgical procedure involves completely or partially removing the damaged meniscus tissue. Your surgeon will make small incisions in your knee so that they can insert an arthroscope and other necessary surgical instruments to remove a part or all of the meniscus.

While this type of surgery offers good short term results, total removal of an entire meniscus can lead to the development of arthritis about 10 to 20 years later. That’s because the meniscus helps decrease stress on the knee and provides shock absorption, stability, and joint lubrication. Without it, the impact of stress on the knee is higher.

Meniscus repair

Unlike arthroscopic meniscectomy, meniscus repair is performed when the tear is repairable. Your surgeon will sew the torn pieces of cartilage back together so they can heal on their own.

This type of surgery can restore the normal anatomy of your knee and has a better long-term prognosis when successful. However, the recovery time is longer compared to arthroscopic meniscectomy.

Meniscus transplant

This type of surgery involves replacing the torn meniscus with a meniscus contributed by a deceased donor patient. The ideal patient for a meniscus transplant is someone who had their meniscus removed and subsequently begins to develop knee pain.

If you decide to undergo surgery, the recovery time from any of the above surgery will vary. If you had a partial meniscectomy, you might be able to return to sports in about 4 to 6 weeks. However, if you had a meniscus repair, it may take longer about 3 to 6 months before you can play sports again.

To quicken your recovery, you will need to follow your surgeon’s advice and undergo a progressive rehabilitation plan to improve your knee’s movement and regain muscle strength.

Make sure to attend your follow-up visits as scheduled. This will allow your surgeon to monitor your recovery progress as well as determine whether it is safe for you to return to your daily activities.

At Spire Orthopaedic Centre, everyone should be cared for and healed holistically in comfort without having to travel to different locations to seek medical and surgical help and rehabilitation support.

With a combined facility for collaboration between physicians, physiotherapists, and surgeons, you will experience a seamless service from diagnosis to treatment and rehabilitation, that’s tailored just for you at our clinic.