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Meniscus Tear

What is the meniscus?

The meniscus is a piece of crescent shaped cartilage that cushions the thigh bone where it meets the knee joint to enhance joint stability, provide shock absorption and importantly keep the bones from rubbing together to protect the joint. There are two menisci in each knee.

About meniscus tears

Meniscus tears are common and can cause profound functional and biomechanical imbalances which accelerate degeneration of the articular cartilage and lead to osteoarthritis. Patients with a known meniscus tear have accelerated cartilage damage, leading to early onset osteoarthritis.

Symptoms include:

  • pain and swelling, especially when squatting, twisting, deep bending and walking
  • stiffness
  • clicking, catching, locking
  • knee instability – giving way

Acute traumatic tears

Acute traumatic tears result from a traumatic injury typically pivoting and cutting during contact sports, skiing or a fall that causes a forceful twisting or rotation of the knee, and from kneeling, squatting or heavy lifting.  Meniscus tears can also often occur with an anterior cruciate ligament tear. Traumatic tears may be stable or unstable. Unstable tears include radial tears, flap tears and bucket handle tears.

Degenerative tears

Degenerative tears are due to age-related wear and tear. Aged-related degenerative tears are frequently revealed by physical examination and confirmed by MRI in middle-aged or elderly patients who often have no symptoms. Degenerative tears are the most common cause of knee pain, swelling and impaired function.

Dr. Patel will review your medical history, ask about symptoms, and knee injuries and ask about your treatment preferences. He will conduct a thorough orthopaedic exam testing range of motion and using special clinical tests. An MRI is the definitive modality for diagnosing a meniscus tear but not needed with all degenerative tears. With this information, Dr. Patel will develop a treatment plan to meet your needs.

The meniscus is a necessary knee structure that is vital for knee stability and function. Untreated acute meniscus tears can negatively impact quality of life and hinder the ability to perform daily activities including working out or playing sports. Repair is crucial for pain relief and prevention of osteoarthritis. Degenerative tears may respond to conservative measures including physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications and injection treatment.

Dr. Ronak M. Patel is a double board-certified orthopaedic surgeon and sports medicine physician. He completed his bachelor’s degree, medical degree, and residency training at Northwestern University. He, then completed his fellowship training at the Cleveland Clinic. He specializes in the treatment of complex knee, shoulder and elbow injuries and degenerative conditions. Contact him to schedule a consultation to learn more about how he can help you return to the life you love and the activities that make life worth living. He serves teens and adults in Chicagoland and NW Indiana.

At a Glance

Ronak M. Patel M.D.

  • Double Board-Certified, Fellowship-Trained Orthopaedic Surgeon
  • Past Team Physician to the Cavaliers (NBA), Browns (NFL) and Guardians (MLB)
  • Published over 49 publications and 10 book chapters
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