When the cartilage surrounding a healthy knee is torn as the result of strain or an injury, it can usually heal on its own, depending on the size and location of the tear around the knee. In certain cases where the tear cannot heal on its own, an orthopedic surgeon can opt to repair the tear surgically. When a piece of the torn cartilage has migrated in the knee, resulting in increased pain, swelling, and inflammation in the knee joint, a common procedure known as a partial meniscectomy is performed to surgically correct the meniscus.
Most patients can usually return to reasonably normal levels of activity if a torn meniscus heals properly. The most common form of treatment for mild and moderate tears located on the outside of the knee is rest, ice, and limiting strenuous physical activity and pressure on the knee, allowing time for the tear to heal on its own. With larger tears, depending on the location, an orthopedic surgeon can usually repair the damage with minimally invasive arthroscopic surgery.
A new procedure under development by a select group of highly specialized orthopedic surgeons around the world is meniscus transplantation. This procedure consists of a complete removal of the damaged cartilage, which is replaced by cartilage from a cadaver donor. Meniscal transplantations are complicated and require an extremely skilled surgeon with the necessary precision and expertise to attach the donor meniscus accurately and securely.
Meniscus transplantation would not be reserved for the more common forms of meniscal tears where rest or a partial meniscectomy would provide the best outcomes for healing. So far, meniscus transplantations have not proven effective in cases where the knee has already developed arthritis, a possible result of joint damage due to cartilage degeneration from previous wear and tear or injuries. At the moment, the procedure is recommended for younger patients with no signs of arthritis in the knee.
Next read more about meniscus repair.