What is the Meniscus & How is it Torn?
The meniscus is a crescent-shaped piece of fibro-cartilage between the ends of the thigh bone and shin bone inside the knee joint. Each knee has 2 menisci – a medial meniscus and a lateral meniscus. The meniscus serves as a cushion or shock absorber between the ends of the bones that meet in the knee joint. Having a torn meniscus is needed to undergo treatments & surgery in Singapore.
The role of the meniscus is crucial to the functional health of the knee joint. Being a shock absorber, the meniscus protects the articular cartilage of the knee joint from prematurely wearing out. In other words, the meniscus has a “chondro-protective” effect on the knee cartilage. A knee articular cartilage damage will have arthritis symptoms of knee pain, stiffness, and difficulties with walking.
What are the causes of Meniscus Tear?
One of the common causes of sudden knee pain is a meniscus tear inside the knee joint. A meniscus tear can occur from either trauma or injury or degeneration due to age.:
- The knee is twisted or over-flexed
- Quickly stop moving and changing direction while running, landing from a jump, or turning (often in sports)
- Kneeling down
- Squatting down low and lifting something heavy
- Hit on the knee, such as during a football tackle
In some patients, the meniscus tear is related to a major knee ligament tear such as a rupture of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).
In older patients, the meniscus substance can undergo degeneration and tear with minor injuries e.g. performing a deep squat. These tears are termed degenerative tears.
Occasionally, patients have congenital malformations in their meniscus which predispose them to tears. These meniscus are discoid-shaped and not crescent-shaped. These are termed “Discoid Meniscus” and they tend to be on the lateral meniscus and can tear easily causing symptoms of pain and/or knee jamming.
Signs & Symptoms of a Meniscus Tear
A sudden sharp pain initially, sometimes with a ‘pop’ or ‘crack’ felt/heard inside the knee is one of the signs & symptoms of having a torn meniscus. Unlike a ligament rupture, where initial symptoms are normally very severe and most patients are unable to continue doing whatever it was they were doing, often with a meniscus tear, patients can actually continue to function reasonably well initially. However, the joint often then swells up, often only moderately and often not until a number of hours after the actual injury.
The classic symptoms of a meniscus tear are the list below:
- Pain in the Knee – Intermittent sharp pains on either the inner (medial) or outer (lateral) side of the knee, depending on which meniscus is actually torn. If the back part of the meniscus (the posterior horn) is torn, then patients often feel pain around the back of the knee, particularly with deep knee flexion (bending) eg squatting. These sharp pains are often aggravated by any twisting of the knee.
- Swelling – this is due to increased joint fluid in the knee (an effusion).
- Clicking – painless clicking is not of any real significance. However, painful clicking and/or clicking associated with feelings of catching, giving way, or locking often indicates the presence of a meniscus tear.
- Giving way – Intermittent sudden giving way, particularly when associated with sudden sharp pains and particularly when occurring with twisting on the knee, can be due to unstable flaps of meniscal cartilage catching in the knee.
- Patients often also complain of a more constant dull aching pain on the affected side of the joint.
- Locking is where the knee joint gets stuck in a bent position and is unable to straighten (extend the knee). The joint may click or clunk back into place by wiggling the joint. Locking of this nature often indicates an unstable meniscal tear.
Diagnosis of Meniscus Tear in Singapore
The physical examination is a relatively reliable tool for the diagnosis of a meniscus tear. With a symptomatic meniscus tear, there will likely be swelling of the knee (effusion) and tenderness along the joint line when the meniscus is pressed (palpation). In addition, loading the knee with specific maneuvers or a squat will cause pain in the compartment with the meniscus tear.
X-rays are important in the diagnosis of knee injuries in Singapore. They are screening tools to rule out fractures in cases of acute knee injuries and to rule out arthritis in chronic knee pain. In cases of a chronic knee condition, the X-rays show the amount of joint space (cartilage) left in the knee.
MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) has become an essential tool for knee surgeons. While X-rays are excellent at showing bony anatomy, arthritis, and fractures, MRI is very sensitive for detecting injuries to the soft tissues of the knee including cartilage, meniscus, and ligament.
Meniscus Tear Treatment & Surgery in Singapore
Because of the poor healing capacity of the meniscus, most symptomatic meniscus tears caused by trauma require arthroscopy (key-hole surgery to the knee joint) to repair the meniscus or remove the torn piece of meniscus.
A degenerative tear is often given a chance to improve with time. Initial meniscus tear treatment is with R.I.C.E. (rest, ice, compression, and elevation), anti-inflammatories, and physical therapy for a period of 4-6 weeks prior to making a decision for surgery.
At the time of meniscus tear surgery, the orthopaedic surgeon in Singapore will make a determination of whether or not the meniscus tear is repairable. Complex tears and degenerative tears are usually not amenable to repair and are treated with arthroscopic partial meniscectomy (removal). If at all possible, the torn meniscus should be repaired.
A common question is: “If the meniscus is so important, why to remove it?”
The problem is the torn part of the meniscus no longer functions properly as a shock absorber. Instead, it is a source of knee pain and inflammation. The torn portion also acts like a pebble in a shoe, causing damage to the articular cartilage. Hence in such situations, the reasonable option is to remove the torn portion and preserve as much functional meniscus tissue as possible.
The surgery is an outpatient surgery – come in and go home the same day. Post-surgery, the knee will be in an Ace bandage and the patient will use crutches for 3-7 days. Bearing weight on the leg is safe.
For Partial Meniscectomy: In 5-7 days, the patient will likely be walking comfortably, followed by a physical therapy program.
For Meniscus Repair: Meniscus repair rehabilitation is longer than a partial meniscectomy as the meniscus requires time to heal. The patient will be in a brace for six weeks after surgery and motion will be limited to 90 degrees of flexion for this period. Weight-bearing will be allowed with the brace locked only.
What is Meniscus Repair?
A meniscus repair procedure is when the surgeon sutures the torn edges of the torn cartilages together. This process will allow it to heal on its own. Before the meniscus tear surgery in Singapore is carried out, the surgeon will use the arthroscope to determine the type of tear that occurred, then decide what surgical technique to perform. However, only 10% of meniscus tears are repairable with the different tear types and blood supply.
Why perform a meniscus repair?
If a meniscus tear is left untreated, it will lead to various knee complications that could be irreparable. Most meniscus injuries occur in the inner two-thirds of the meniscus, known as the “white” zone where blood supply is not as rich. These injuries seldom heal on their own due to the lack of nutrients. When the loose meniscus cartilage moves around inside your joint, it may lead to locking or popping of the knee and knee instability. A severely injured meniscus can also lead to arthritis.
Who needs meniscus surgery?
Most people, including sports people, may require meniscus tear treatment at some point in their life. Sudden movements like twisting, turning, or colliding could cause a meniscus tear. Older people are also likely to get meniscus surgery. As the menisci get weak over time, it is more likely to tear. Most people with a torn meniscus would choose to get surgery performed as the injured cartilage can cause unstable knees, pain, and swelling, or even cause the knees to lock up.
When Do I Need a Meniscus Repair?
You may have torn your meniscus, and a meniscus repair may be needed if you are experiencing the following symptoms include:
inability to straighten the knee
Depending on the severity, your doctor may first suggest nonsurgical treatments. However, the deciding factor if a meniscus repair is needed also depends on the following:
Over the age of 30 years old
The type, size, and location of the tear
Activity level and lifestyle
Types of symptoms you are experiencing
Frequently Asked Questions About Meniscus Tear in Singapore
What is a torn meniscus?
A torn meniscus is a meniscus that tears in the knee. Common tears are parrot beak tears, vertical tears, complex tears, horizontal cleavage tears, radial tears, and root tears.
How much does a meniscus surgery cost?
According to the MOH website, the cost of arthroscopic partial meniscectomy/partial meniscus tear surgery is between $16,000 to $22,000, and the cost of arthroscopic meniscus surgery is between $18,000 to $25,000.
How long does it take to recover post-surgery?
It can take between 6 weeks to 3 months to completely heal, depending on what you did after the meniscus tear surgery in Singapore. But most patients can walk immediately after surgery.
Sometimes, orthopaedic surgeons here in Singapore advise to try avoiding twisting injuries to the knee, or deep squatting of the knee as these are the common activities resulting in a torn meniscus. You should do the following to reduce the risk of having a torn meniscus:
Do targeted strength training for your knee
Strengthen lower limb muscles (e.g. quadriceps) and hamstring muscles
Warm-up and stretch before any exercise
Practice proper jumping and landing techniques
What happens during meniscus tear surgery?
The meniscus tear surgery in Singapore is done under anaesthesia and 2 tiny keyholes are created in the front of the injured knee. The camera is introduced into the knee to see the torn meniscus. Special implants are used via the 2nd keyhole to perform the repair of the torn meniscus.
Is it possible to prevent a meniscus tear?
Sometimes. Orthopaedic surgeon in Singapore advice to try avoiding twisting injuries to the knee, or deep squatting of the knee as these are the common activities resulting in a torn meniscus. You should do the following to reduce the risk of having a torn meniscus:
- Do targeted strength training for your knee
- Strengthen lower limb muscles (e.g. quadriceps) and hamstring muscles
- Warm-up and stretch before any exercise
- Practice proper jumping and landing techniques
What are the surgical options for meniscus tears?
If your symptoms do not improve with the meniscus tear treatment, you may need to turn to surgical options to treat your torn meniscus to restore the function of your knee. There are several surgical options for torn meniscus:
- All inside repair
- Inside out repair
- Outside in repair
- Trans-osseous tunnel repair