Treating a Torn Meniscus: April 7, 2017
If you have knee pain and joint swelling, doctors say it could be more than arthritis pain. Age and injury can lead to arthritis, but excessive knee pain and swelling could also be caused by a meniscus tear.
Dr. Francesca Swartz, an orthopedic surgeon on staff with Lee Health, says the meniscus is a c-shaped shock absorber on the inside and outside of the knee. It protects the thigh bone from the shin bone. “As we get older and the cartilage surfaces start to wear out, this by itself can start to tear a meniscus and certainly when we see a knee with bone on bone arthritis we know that that meniscus is torn. It’s very common to have both because the degenerative process not only affects this smooth cartilage, but it also affects this whole part.”
If most of the pain is caused by a meniscus tear, doctors will treat that first in hopes of easing the pain also caused by the arthritis. Medication, injections, even surgery are common treatments depending on the condition of the knee. “If 80 percent of your pain comes from a meniscus tear, you’ll be very happy with a meniscus surgery. If 80 percent comes from arthritis you’re not going to be happy with your arthroscopic intervention, you’ll still have pain and swelling,” said Dr. Swartz.
If the pain continues, doctors may recommend knee replacement surgery. “This is where we exchange all of the bad cartilage, meniscus and articular cartilage for metal and plastic. It’s never as good as the knee you had when you were 18 but definitely better than this knee that you have in your 50s and 60s,” said Dr. Swartz.
After a knee replacement surgery, patients are eventually able to resume their active lifestyle without pain.