A torn cartilage, or meniscus, can be painful and problematic if not treated appropriately.
The meniscus is, quite simply, the knee's cushion, forming a pliable layer between the ends of the femur and the tibia. A cartilage tear is usually caused by the joint being compressed and twisted, which can pinch and damage the meniscus.
This injury can vary in seriousness depending on the damage. Sometimes there will be just a small nick in the meniscus, while at other times the rip will be large and painful, locking the knee up entirely.
Symptoms to look out for include:
- Pain beneath the patella
- Swelling on the knee
- Catching and locking of the joint
Diagnosis is initially based on symptoms and function, although at times a CT scan or MRI will be required to make a complete diagnosis.
As meniscus tissue is important in helping the joint to function smoothly, treatment is based on preserving as much meniscal tissue as possible.
For minor injuries, the basic treatment of ice, compression, gentle motion (e.g. stationary bike) and NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drugs) may be sufficient.
If surgery is required, the surgeon will use an arthroscope to examine the knee. If there is minor damage, a repair will be affected using the arthroscope to put sutures across the damaged area. If this is not possible, a microscopic shaver will be used to remove the torn tissue and leave a smooth surface.