Partial meniscectomy is a knee surgery in which the orthopedic surgeon arthroscopically trims out part of the meniscus tear. It is one of the most common surgeries in all of orthopedic surgery.

I receive hundreds of questions every year on this site from people concerned about their meniscus tears. They don’t understand the injury, the surgery to treat it, and the recovery. In this article, I answer some of the most common questions I receive about a partial meniscectomy surgery.

Will the meniscus tear heal on its own?

The meniscus has a limited blood supply. Therefore, an adult’s meniscus tear usually does not heal on its own. Pain, locking or catching of the knee, difficulty with twisting or bending activities often continue despite rest and activity modification. A patient often needs surgery to treat the tear. Surgery can relieve the symptoms and allow you to return to your desired activities without pain.

What does surgery to trim out the meniscus tear involve?

Partial meniscectomy is the formal name for the surgery. The orthopedic surgeon looks inside the knee arthroscopically. He makes two or three small incisions on the front of the knee and looks at all of the structures within the knee. He then removes the torn part of the meniscus, using small scissors and/or a shaver to trim out the inner part of the tear. He leaves the remainder of the meniscus in place to serve as a shock absorber in the knee.

Can the surgeon repair the meniscus tear instead?

Some meniscus tears can be repaired. The orthopedic surgeon can sew these meniscus tears together with sutures or anchors. Only tears that occur in certain parts of the meniscus and certain orientations of tears heal after repair. These types of tears most often occur in younger patients. Your surgeon can tell you the likelihood that he or she can repair your specific meniscus tear.

Also read:
Can I still play sports and exercise before surgery for a meniscus tear?

Meniscus tear treatment illustration

How long will it take me to fully recover from meniscus surgery?

You might quickly notice much less pain than you had before surgery. However, it can take much longer than many people expect to recover completely. Decreasing the swelling and increasing knee motion can take several weeks. Returning to exercise and demanding physical activities
can take weeks or months as well. The presence of any coexisting arthritis changes can slow recovery. Many patients say that it can require 4 to 6 months for the knee to improve to its greatest improvement.

Will surgery to trim out the meniscus tear completely relieve my knee pain?

Partial meniscectomy can relieve most of your knee pain if the meniscus tear is the source of the pain. Meniscus tears often occur in patients with osteoarthritis changes in their knees. While partial meniscectomy often relieves some of the pain in these patients, trimming out the tear likely does little to decrease the pain due to the osteoarthritis component. That is one reason orthopedic surgeons often do not treat patients with degenerative meniscus tears and osteoarthritis of the knee surgically.

Also read:
Swelling and stiffness after meniscus surgery

Will trimming out part of the meniscus lead to arthritis in the knee?

One of the main functions of the meniscus is to serve as a shock-absorber in the knee. Removing some of that shock absorber can lead to osteoarthritis years after partial meniscectomy surgery. Other factors play a role too. If you are concerned about developing arthritis and whether you will be able to play sports or exercise in the future, you should discuss these questions with your orthopedic surgeon.

These questions and my answers do not apply to every patient with the meniscus tear. Plus, there are many factors that make the treatment and recovery different for every patient. Each patient should discuss any questions about the diagnosis, treatment options, and recovery from a meniscus tear of the knee with his or her orthopedic surgeon.

Also read:
Return to activity after meniscus surgery

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