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Surgery for Meniscus Tears

NYU Langone orthopedic surgeons are specially trained to offer a range of surgical options, including minimally invasive outpatient approaches, for treating meniscus tears. The type of surgery that your doctor may recommend typically depends on where in the meniscus the tear is located, its severity, and the tear pattern—all of which your doctor assesses with physical exams and imaging tests.

Surgeons try to preserve as much of the meniscus as possible because of the important role it plays in absorbing shock and weight in the knee and in your mobility.

Your doctor considers whether you are a good candidate for one of our outpatient surgical procedures and whether it is likely to preserve the meniscus. Younger people who are athletic may be good candidates for surgery to repair or replace the meniscus, while older adults who have degenerative tissue in the meniscus may benefit from more conservative, nonsurgical approaches. Regardless of age, if you have a tear that causes symptoms such as knee locking you may be better served with arthroscopic surgery.

Meniscus Repair Surgery

Your doctor uses imaging exams to examine the blood supply to the area of the meniscus tear and the type of the tear to see if it is possible to repair the meniscus. Our doctors perform meniscus repair surgery whenever possible because of the increased likelihood of the tissue healing.

To repair the meniscus, doctors perform arthroscopic surgery, which requires making two to three small incisions in the knee, rather than one large open incision. Your surgeon inserts a tiny camera through one of these incisions to provide a live view of the meniscus and the surgical repair. They then pass suturing tools through the other small incisions to close the tear. Doctors also use sutures to close the small incisions on the skin outside of the knee and place a small bandage over the wounds.

This minimally invasive approach allows for more rapid healing and recovery than a larger open incision. The outpatient procedure typically takes about 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the size of the tear.

After Meniscus Repair Surgery

Your doctor may recommend using crutches for up to six weeks to keep weight off your knee. Participating in physical therapy can help you recover most of your knee function within two to three months, with a full recovery taking up to six months.

Partial Meniscectomy Surgery

A partial meniscectomy is the removal of damaged meniscus tissue. Your doctor may recommend this surgery if imaging tests indicate the blood supply to the damaged area of the meniscus is poor or that the tear pattern is irreparable. A tear in the meniscus can create a small tissue flap that irritates the knee joint, causing inflammation and pain.

Our surgeons perform a partial meniscectomy using arthroscopic surgery, also called arthroscopy. Your surgeon makes two to three small incisions in the knee and inserts a tiny camera through one of these incisions to provide a live view of the torn meniscus. Tiny surgical tools are inserted through the other incisions. The surgeon then removes the tissue flap that is irritating the knee joint, while preserving as much of the meniscus as possible. A partial meniscectomy is an outpatient procedure and takes about 30 minutes.

After Partial Meniscectomy

After surgery, you wear a soft bandage over the wound for a couple of days. You may need to use a cane or crutches for a week, with knee function fully returning three to six weeks after surgery with a physical rehabilitation program.

Meniscus Transplant Surgery

Your doctor may recommend a meniscus transplant if you have previously had a large or severe tear that required the removal of most of the meniscus. Without a meniscus, you have an increased risk of developing arthritis in your knee. If you already have osteoarthritis of the knee, your doctor may discuss the option of having a total joint replacement with you.

For a meniscus transplant, your surgeon removes the remainder of the damaged meniscus from the joint and replaces it with a meniscus of a similar size from a donor. This is usually performed as an outpatient procedure.

After a Meniscus Transplant

You may wear a brace and use crutches for four to six weeks while your knee heals. Physical therapy can help you get back to daily activities in two to three months, while a return to playing sports may take six months to a year.

Meniscus Surgery Combined with Osteotomy

Imaging tests may show that a meniscus tear is accompanied by malalignment of the knee joint and leg bones. In this scenario, your doctor may recommend a procedure to realign your bones, called a knee osteotomy, in addition to other meniscus surgery, including partial meniscectomy, repair, or transplant.

To perform an osteotomy, your surgeon makes an incision in the knee where the bone needs to be corrected. Your surgeon then realigns the leg bones and knee joint by removing a small wedge of bone or inserting an implant at the end of the thighbone or the shinbone. The implant is held in place with surgical screws. The surgeon closes the incision with sutures. The procedure usually lasts one to two hours.

The osteotomy helps to realign the leg and shifts your body weight off the damaged portion of the knee.

After Meniscus Surgery Combined with Osteotomy

Using crutches for up to six weeks helps keep weight off the knee after meniscus surgery combined with osteotomy. A personalized physical therapy program that lasts several months can help with your recovery.

Surgical Biologics

Our surgeons may discuss using the emerging technology of biologics to help enhance healing of the meniscus tissue at the time of surgery. Biologics are medicines derived from biological sources such as blood, bone marrow, and fat cells.

Our Research and Education in Meniscus Tears

Learn more about our research and professional education opportunities.