The meniscus is a wedge-shaped piece of cartilage between the thighbone and shinbone. It has a tough, rubbery texture to help cushion the joint and keep it stable. Tears are classified by their shape and location. Common tears include longitudinal, parrot-beak, flap, bucket handle, and mixed/complex.
Sudden meniscal tears often happen during sports and may involve injuries to other ligaments and bones. Older people are more likely to have degenerative meniscal tears because of weakened cartilage.
Most people can still walk on an injured meniscus, but the joint will get progressively more painful and stiff. Other symptoms of meniscal tear are: swelling, catching or locking of the knee, the sensation of the knee “giving way,” and loss of range of motion.
A physical exam and patient history, including sports or activities that affect the knee, will help the doctor diagnose a meniscus tear. Imaging like an MRI or CT may also be ordered. A McMurray test, when the doctor manipulates the knee to check for a clicking sound, may help with diagnosis as well.
Some tears will heal on their own with rest and care. Others may need to be trimmed or repaired. Arthroscopic surgery allows the surgeon to insert a camera into a small incision in the knee. The surgeon can then visualize and repair the meniscus.Previous Page Last Review Date: December 19, 2017