What is meniscus repair?
Meniscus repair is a surgical treatment for a torn meniscus. The meniscus is one of the cartilages in the knee that provides cushioning and stabilisation. It is commonly torn, often by twisting the knee joint during sport (especially football, netball, basketball, tennis, squash). You can tear your meniscus without playing sport – it can tear from just getting up too quickly from the squatting position. Tears can also develop gradually as you age – these are called degenerative tears.
The size and location of the tear determines which treatments are most appropriate. Some tears may be able to be surgically repaired with stitches or anchors.
How does meniscus repair work?
Meniscus repair is performed under general or regional anaesthesia (spinal). It is commonly done arthroscopically, although some people need open surgery.
During arthroscopic meniscus repair, your surgeon makes an incision into your knee joint and inserts the tiny camera of the arthroscope. Images are transmitted onto a large screen so your surgeon can clearly see the inside of your joint. Through other small incisions, tiny instruments are inserted and the torn pieces of the tear are sewn together.
Once the tear in the meniscus is repaired, your surgeon may repair other injuries in the knee joint as required. The instruments and arthroscope are removed and the incisions are closed with tape or stitches. Your knee is then bandaged and a cast or splint is usually fitted.
What to expect after meniscus repair
It’s common to have some swelling of your knee, shin and ankle. Try and keep your leg elevated as much as possible to reduce swelling. Pain should be minimal (due to local anaesthesia), but you be given pain medication as needed.
Before you go home, your therapist will teach you how to walk safely on crutches and some simple exercises to prevent stiffness. These exercises are the start of your post-op rehabilitation program.
About 10–14 days after surgery, the dressing and stitches are removed. At this stage you’ll be able to shower and you may be able to return to office-style work. After the initial healing is complete, your rehabilitation program will start to incorporate strengthening exercises.
Full recovery takes around 12 weeks.