How Is Your Health?

What To Expect When Having Your Meniscus Surgically Repaired

by Camila Davidson

Tearing your meniscus can be pretty painful. After the initial tear, the pain usually subsides somewhat, but only when you're not active. Walking likely still hurts, and running is basically impossible. The best solution for a torn meniscus is usually surgery. The procedure will be performed by an orthopedic surgeon, and this is a general overview of what you can expect.

The Consultation

In preparation for your surgery, you will generally need to have a consultation with your surgeon. They will review any x-rays and other images that have been taken to determine how severe the tear is and exactly how they are going to approach the surgery. 

After this consultation, you'll be given surgical preparation instructions. You may be instructed to stop taking certain medications, such as blood thinners, a few days before surgery. You'll also be instructed to stop smoking and avoid alcohol, since these substances can slow healing and interfere with the action of anesthesia. You'll also need to fast for at least 12 hours prior to surgery; again, this is for safety reasons associated with the anesthesia.

The Surgery

Meniscus surgery is usually done under general anesthesia. An IV will be placed in your arm, and within seconds, you will be completely asleep and unaware. While you are out, the surgeon will make several small incisions in and around your knee. They'll insert a small camera and tiny surgical tools through these incisions and use images on a screen to guide them in repairing the torn meniscus tissue.

If your meniscus is seriously torn, your surgeon may instead remove the meniscus tissue entirely. This is done because part of the meniscus does not have a good enough blood supply to heal properly, even with surgery. Your knee can function without the meniscus, although you will be more prone to arthritis as you age.

After the meniscus is either removed or repaired, your surgeon will stitch the incisions closed. You'll be taken off the anesthesia drip and you'll wake up a few minutes later.

After meniscus surgery, patients can typically go home later in the day. You'll need to walk on crutches for a few weeks and work with a physical therapist to regain strength in your knee. There will be some pain, but you'll be prescribed pain relievers, and over-the-counter pain relievers should cover it after the first few days.

Meniscus surgery is a pretty common procedure. Most patients make a full recovery, whether they ultimately have their meniscus repaired or removed.