Understanding the Basics Behind Meniscus Injury Management
What is Meniscus Injury Management?
Knee pain is one of the most common symptoms orthopedic physicians treat in this country.
Whether you’re an athlete or just performing your basic day-to-day tasks, all of the bending, straightening and twisting movements your knee performs can leave you at risk of injury to your meniscus. Meniscus injuries can occur through overuse, arthritis from long-term degeneration, or even from sudden forceful twist or rotation.
The Meniscus (plural “menisci”) is a rubbery cartilage disc that provides cushion, support and stability to the knee. Ligaments are structures that hold the four bones of the knee together (patella, femur, tibia, and fibula) and allow it to function properly. Common injuries include meniscus tears (e.g. bucket handle tears), patellar (knee cap) dislocations, and sprains and/or tears of ligaments like the ACL, PCL, LCL, PLC, MCL, and MPFL.
Common signs of a meniscus injury include:
- A popping sensation
- Pain when twisting or rotating the knee
- An inability to fully straighten your knee
- A locking sensation when attempting to move your knee
- And more
Kansas City Orthopedic Alliance Knee & Leg Injuries Assessment
Assessing the Injury
Determining the proper treatment process for knee and leg injuries starts with an assessment from one of our experienced providers.
You can think of knee pain as a spectrum, with some instances being more severe than others. The KCOA orthopedic specialists always focus on each individual patient and their concerns before creating a treatment plan.
Therefore, during your initial appointment, we will often ask questions such as:
From there, we can decide what treatment option will align best with your needs and lifestyle goals. Once we’ve completed a proper assessment, your provider will often begin with a physical examination to help determine the origin point of your pain. In some cases, advanced testing may be required for a full diagnosis.
- Does your pain currently limit you or your activities?
- Has your pain progressed or worsened recently?
- Did you notice or hear a popping sound at the time of your injury?
- Are you having a catch, clicking or grinding in your knee?
- Have you noticed any change in your symptoms that has made it more challenging to function?
- What are your lifestyle goals?
- How has pain affected those goals?
Also called radiographs, an X-ray captures a picture of the ankle, heel, or lower leg. Orthopedic physicians may order an X-ray to rule out the possibility of a fracture (broken bone), osteoarthritis, or other bone-related conditions.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
MRI captures images of muscles, bones, intervertebral discs, and tendons to help provide information other tests can’t detail. During an MRI, you will lie on a table that slides into a tube-shaped scanner. The machine creates a magnetic field around you, using pulsed radio waves to form the MRI images.
Establishing a Care Plan
Based on the results of your interview, examination, and imaging studies, you can expect a custom care plan catered specifically to you.
Many people believe it’s best to wait until pain becomes severe, leading them to “put off” or delay treatments for meniscus injuries.
If you are in constant discomfort, have shooting or stabbing pains, have limited range of motion, clicking or locking of the knee or an inability to perform your daily activities, meniscus injury treatments may be right for you.
New technologies allow patients with meniscus injuries to fully recover and enjoy the benefits of a more functional, pain-free lifestyle.
Prior to surgery, you will typically receive at least 2 phone calls:
- A hospital registration representative will call to gather insurance and other personal information.
- A registered nurse will call to review your health history and medication information.
Dependent on your health history, your physician may require:
- Pre-surgical laboratory tests
- Primary care clearance
Pre-operative instructions will vary depending on your physician and the location of your surgery.
Always check with your physician before surgery for specific instructions.
Most physicians require that patients not eat or drink after midnight prior to surgery.
Additionally, you will need to designate a family member or friend to drive you home on the day you are released from the hospital. Surgical patients cannot drive themselves home.
Day of Surgery
If you schedule your surgery with a KCOA physician, you can expect the following on surgery day:
- A receptionist will check you in at the hospital registration desk.
- A nurse will take you back and prepare you for surgery. They will start an IV, prepare the surgical site, and review your medical history and medications.
- Your surgeon and anesthesiologist will visit with you prior to your operation.
- The surgical team will take you to the operation suite for surgery.
How it Works
If conservative and non-surgical treatments fail to alleviate symptoms and restore function, surgical treatments may be necessary. For meniscus injuries specifically, there are a number of different surgical treatments that our Board Certified orthopedic surgeons can perform. These include all of the following:
- Meniscus Debridement
- Meniscus Repair
- Meniscus Transplantation
The type of meniscus surgery that’s performed will be decided well before your actual surgery. Though the methods vary, your meniscus surgery will involve the use of general anesthesia and generally can be completed in under two hours.
During your procedure, your surgeon may repair the cartilage that makes up your meniscus, located between the bones in your knee. In most cases, meniscus repair is performed with arthroscopic surgery, where your surgeon will insert a lighted tube and a tiny camera into the knee through small incisions.
Your doctor may also perform a partial meniscectomy in the case of a less severe injury. In this instance, the healthy meniscus is left in place while the damaged cartilage is removed.
Post-Op & What to Expect
A patient’s recovery plan and timeline will vary based on a variety of factors, including age, activity level, goals, and more. However, taking care of your body is essential to ensure optimal results from your meniscus surgery.
Following your procedure, patients will likely experience swelling, bruising, and possible numbness in the treatment area. Rest and ice will be critical immediately following surgery. Your provider may also provide you with pain medications, crutches, a brace, and more.
The full recovery timeline can take anywhere from six weeks to six months, depending on the extent of the repair, your response to treatment, and your goals post-procedure.
To see the best results from your treatment, strict adherence to your recovery plan will be crucial. This can include physical therapy, rehab, rest, icing, and more.
Common Signs and Symptoms of Knee & Leg Injuries
With so many different structures working together in your knees, there are many potential causes of pain. And each of those causes has a unique set of symptoms.
Proper meniscus injury management techniques can help treat your issues. Though you can treat many knee issues with conservative measures and non-surgical options, sometimes surgery may be necessary if the patient’s knee doesn’t respond to these treatments. Knee injuries can also degenerate based on certain risk factors, such as age, activity level, weight, and more.
Causes of Knee Pain
The body has different kinds of joints, and they all face different challenges.
The severity of your knee and leg pain can vary based on a number of factors, including the location and the source of the issue. The knee is a very vulnerable joint in your body that’s susceptible to injury from a forceful motion, as well as the wear and tear that builds up over the years.
Your knee relies on a number of structures to function, including bones, cartilage, ligaments, and tendons. As the years go on, many people struggle with the effects of repeated movements, such as walking, running, or jumping. This can result in meniscus injuries that require treatment from an orthopedic specialist in Kansas City.
In most cases, surgery is not the first option for treatment at Kansas City Orthopedic Alliance. If we can treat your meniscus issues with more conservative treatments, we’ll choose those options. We typically exhaust all non-surgical options prior to recommending surgery. Many meniscus injuries do not require surgery, and our providers at KCOA can help improve your function and alleviate symptoms with a number of non-invasive treatments. Non-surgical treatments for meniscus injuries include:
Movement can actually reduce pain and encourage healing in the meniscus, as movement increases circulation and supplies and other nutrients that support joint health and function. Stretching and flexibility exercises, strengthening exercises, deep tissue massages, and cryotherapy (use of cold packs) are particularly helpful.
Your doctor may recommend over-the-counter NSAIDs (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as Advil) or prescription medications. Especially with NSAIDs, you should always talk to your doctor to ensure they are the right treatment for you.
Stabilization involves the use of braces or other supportive devices to reduce stress and allow the affected area to heal.
Frequently Asked Questions
Kansas City Orthopedic Alliance is here to help.
Our care is personal. Our team is knowledgeable. And we’re more available than ever.
With access to board-certified specialists across Kansas City, we have the tools to meet almost every musculoskeletal condition.
Overland Park, Kansas10777 Nall Ave Suite 300 Overland Park, KS 66211
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Dr. Scott Ellsworth is one of the best
Dr. Scott Ellsworth is one of the best I have ever worked with. He is knowledgeable, efficient, caring, and knows his patients. He has a special bedside manner that makes any patient in any situation feel comfortable. All of the nurses and office staff are wonderful as well.
I'm consistently impressed
In the process of treating my particular problem I’ve been to Apex probably 4-5 times. I’m consistently impressed by the professionalism of the staff and the amount of care & time they spend with me as a patient. They’re always very careful to make sure I understand the nature of the medical problem, the reasons for the diagnosis, and the type of treatment recommended. Stephanie’s care and concern is especially appreciated.
Shannon is very caring and encouraging. She listens to my questions and explains what to expect going forward very thoroughly. Hopefully I don’t need my other shoulder replaced, but if I did I would come back to Shannon and Dr. Van Den Berghe.
Great people who are very willing to help you work through the best way to handle your injury.
Stephanie took great care in explaining my son’s injury and future implications. I feel like we fully understood the injury and what he needed to do to allow it to heal. I would definitely recommend Stephanie!