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Arthroscopic Surgery for Meniscus Tear

Arthroscopic surgery is a common outpatient knee surgery for a meniscus tear

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Updated April 11, 2014

Arthroscopic surgery is the standard outpatient treatment to repair a meniscus tear. Meniscus tears typically occur in sports that require fast starts, stops, cuts and pivots. The medial meniscus (near the inside of the knee) is most commonly torn.

Arthroscopic surgery is generally recommended for meniscus tears. This surgery removes the torn tissue and saves the healthy meniscus. Without surgical repair, the tear will likely continue with activity and fragments of the torn meniscus may damage the smooth articular cartilage of the knee, resulting is not only pain, but possibly arthritis.

Types of Arthroscopic Surgery for a Meniscus Repair

Surgery for meniscus tears includes meniscus removal (meniscectomy), meniscus repair, or in meniscus replacement. For most patients meniscus repair is successful and there are very low rates of complications. Arthroscopic meniscus repair surgery is an elective procedure so it can be scheduled based upon the patient’s needs, but is best performed within two months after the injury. Patients should use this time tp get a second opinion and talk with orthopedic surgeons who work with athletes and have performed meniscus repairs with good results.

Arthroscopic surgery is done by inserting small instruments and a small camera into the knee joint through several small incisions and examining and repairing the tissue. The surgery is done under general and local anesthesia and takes about one to two hours.

Recovery Meniscus Tear Surgery

After about two hours in the recovery room, patients typically leave the hospital. Arthroscopic meniscus repair can cause pain and discomfort after surgery so pain medication is generally provided for up to three days after surgery..

A knee brace and cold packs are used after surgery to reduce swelling and control pain. The brace keeps the leg straight. Depending on the extent of the tear, patients may weight bear immediately or within one to two days. The surgeon will provide detailed instructions to follow. Keeping the leg and knee elevated in the days after surgery will also speed healing.

Physical therapy can begin quickly after surgery. The main focus is to decrease swelling, regain full range of motion and build muscle strength. The typical rehab plan includes six weeks in the brace, performing non weight-bearing, range of motion exercises. After six weeks, patients begin weight bearing and other exercises for another six weeks. Low impact exercise begins at 12 weeks, with full exercise added at 16 weeks.

Return to sport guidelines are fairly rigorous and a patient should have your doctor’s clearance be able to perform sports specific drills at top speed.

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