The meniscus of the knee is an important structure. It contributes to the stability of the knee, provides cushioning, distributes forces over larger area and reduces contact stress, and helps preserve the articular cartilage of the knee.
Smaller tears can easily be removed with little or no measurable impact on the knee. However, the loss of large sections of meniscus (total meniscectomy) can lead to pain, swelling, instability, and long-term arthritic changes. When possible, meniscus repairs (Figure 1) are sometimes preferred over meniscectomy.
Meniscus repairs are most commonly done in younger patients with specific tear patterns. In order for the meniscus to be repaired and heal successfully, the knee must be free of arthritis, and the tear must be near the outer edge of the meniscus. This is called the vascular zone and is where the meniscus receives its blood supply (nutrients from the blood vessels are necessary for healing).
Less than 10% of meniscus tears are repairable. Studies have shown that as high as 40% of patients undergoing a meniscal repair may require further surgery due to incomplete meniscal healing.
Minimally invasive arthroscopic techniques are utilized to repair the meniscus during this procedure. Patients who undergo a meniscal repair must be more cautious postoperatively and typically have more restrictions than those undergoing a partial meniscectomy.