Cartilage (Meniscus) Tear

An injury to the knee, especially during sports such as football, rugby and skiing is very common. A meniscus tear, often referred to as a torn cartilage injury, can be caused by twisting the knee whilst you are weight bearing on the same leg. Meniscal tears can also develop over a period of time through small repeated injuries to the cartilage or through degenerative disease in older people.

The knee joint contains a medial (inner) and lateral (outer) meniscus that are thick and rubber like pads of cartilage tissue. The purpose of the menisci is to act as shock absorbers to absorb the impact of the upper and lower leg during movement. They also help improve smooth movement and stability of the knee, so they play a very important role within the function of the knee joint.

Symptoms of Cartilage (Meniscus) Tear

Experiencing a pain in the knee may not necessarily be the first sign of a meniscal injury as some tears can occur without any symptoms, especially if they are due to wear and tear over a long period of time. 

However, for most people experiencing pain in the knee area or a clicking or locking is the first sign that there is a problem. The symptoms of a cartilage injury depends upon the type and position of the meniscal tear. The pain can often be felt more when the leg is straightened and if a torn fragment of meniscus catches between the shin bone (tibia) and thigh bone (femur) then the pain can be very severe. It may be that an old injury begins to cause pain months or even years later, particularly if the knee is injured again.

Along with pain, you may also experience swelling in the knee area. This could happen fairly soon after a knee injury has occurred. Or, if the symptoms are the result of degeneration, it could be that you notice you have a swollen knee for several months.  You will also notice that you may not have the same function and move capacity and that the knee may lock from time to time, some people also notice a clicking or catching feeling when walking.

Seeking medical advice is important as symptoms may subside and in some people the symptoms of meniscal injury do go away on their own after a few weeks. However, if another injury occurs then doubtless the symptoms do arise again. For most people however, the symptoms continue to persist long-term and will continue to flare up until the tear has been treated.

Birds eye view of both menisci and cruciate ligaments.

Treatment for a Cartilage (Meniscus) Tear 

In the first instance of experiencing a potential knee cartilage injury, it is important to treat the injury with ice to help reduce any swelling, bandage to compress, elevate and rest the leg before seeking medical advice. Small tears may heal themselves over a period of around 6 weeks. Some tears never heal, but may not cause any long-term symptoms once the initial pain and swelling has ceased, or they may cause intermittent pain. If this is the case, then you may be advised to have a course of physiotherapy to help strengthen the supporting structures of the knee and so aid recovery.

Surgery is not always required to treat a meniscal tear and so it is important to be properly diagnosed by a Knee Specialist. However, if a procedure is required, then usually this may involve following:

Consultation Process

If you are experiencing problems with your knee, then a proper consultation with a qualified and experienced Knee Specialist is essential. Mr Guido Geutjens will always take you through a thorough examination and investigation process before providing a diagnosis. Once a diagnosis has been given, and if a torn cartilage in your knee is confirmed, Mr Geutjens will then discuss with you the correct procedure to ensure a successful recovery from the condition.

  • Q1 What is a cartilage (meniscus) tear?

    A meniscal tear is more commonly known as a ‘torn cartilage’, often sustained through sporting activities or through landing badly on your knee.  It can also tear spontaneously as you approach middle age. Symptoms include pain, clicking, swelling and occasionally locking of the knee. The meniscus (there are two of them) is an important shock absorber in the knee.

  • Q2 What is the treatment for a cartilage tear?

    It really depends upon the severity of the tear. It is important to apply ice to a suspected cartilage tear to help reduce the swelling as soon as you can. Small tears do sometimes heal themselves, but it is always wise to seek professional help so as to avoid further damage.

  • Q3 Where can I visit Mr Geutjens for a consultation?

    Mr Geutjens has a private clinic at Nuffield Health Derby Hospital and a NHS clinic at the Royal Derby Hospital.

  • Q4 Will I have to stay overnight in hospital?

    An overnight stay in hospital really depends on what your treatment is to be. In most cases, you will be treated as a day patient and only where a procedure requires post-operative observation, will you be expect to stay overnight or possibly for a day or two.