The Scoop on Meniscal SurgeryThe meniscus is an important part of the knee joint. Forming a pad on each side of the knee joint, the two "menisci" protect the knee. They help absorb the load and pressure of body weight and gravity. And they lubricate the joint.
When a meniscus is damaged or torn from injury or aging, doctors try to repair it. Sometimes, it has to be removed. Even then, doctors save as much of the meniscus as possible and remove only what must be taken out. If the entire meniscus is removed, it is possible for some people to have a meniscal transplant.
Doctors have worked hard to find ways to salvage the meniscus. They have found that it is possible to encourage healing around the meniscus. This is done by sculpting and shaping the edge of the meniscus on either side of the bone. Blood and new tissue move to that area to help the repair process.
They have also designed new surgical tools for the operation. Special needles are used to reach the middle section of the meniscus. Stitches (also called "sutures" that are absorbed into the body) and special T-shaped implants are used to repair the tear in one step. The implants don't need any sutures to hold them in place. A small shaver is used to smooth the loose edges of larger tears. This can be done without damage to the bone underneath.
Researchers continue to look for ways to improve meniscal repair surgery. The goal is to save as much of this cartilage as possible. This will preserve the joint for a much longer time. The next step is to perfect the use of alternate tissues to replace a meniscus that has been completely destroyed or removed.
Patrick E. Greis, MD, et al. Meniscal Injury: II. Management. In Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. May/June 2002. Vol. 10. No. 3. Pp. 177-187.
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