Padding the Truth about the Knee MeniscusIt's well known that removing the meniscus from the knee causes joint damage. This pad of thick cartilage between the main bones of the knee has many important jobs. It acts as a shock absorber, helps lubricate the joint, and gives added stability to the knee.
Knowing all this about the meniscus, doctors are looking for ways to save a damaged meniscus. Efforts to preserve or replace a torn meniscus are underway. One new method is to implant replacement tissue to the area of damage. This is an important discovery for patients who have lost most or all of the entire meniscus.
It's not clear whether these grafts can prevent or delay arthritic changes in the joint. According to researchers, the graft does help the area heal and replace the cartilage. The patient gets pain relief and improved function. However, scientists think this may not be the same as having normal function of the meniscus for the rest of life.
Doctors advise careful selection of patients for this treatment. The ideal patient is under 45 years of age. The patient has normal bone and joint position. Patients with some joint cartilage have a better result than those with injury to the underlying bone when the graft is done.
Knee injuries with a torn meniscus can result in arthritis later. To avoid this, doctors are trying to save the meniscus by repairing it. When that's not possible, a graft can be transplanted to the area. The short-term results are pain relief and improved function. Because this is a new treatment, the long-term benefits are not yet known.
Richard KN Ryu, MD, et al. Meniscal Allograft Replacement: A 1-Year to 6-Year Experience. In Arthroscopy. November/December 2002. Vol. 18. No. 9. Pp. 989-994.
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