Cartilage (Meniscal) Repair Surgery

Meniscal cartilage tears often happen during sport, especially skiing, rugby or football, or if you land badly on your leg perhaps with a forceful movement. Cartilage damage can also be the result of general wear and tear as we age, or through disease such as arthritis. 

Some small meniscal tears can occur without a severe injury and may heal on their own, but those meniscal tears that are bigger do not heal well once torn and in these cases, cartilage repair surgery may be needed.

The first sign of a meniscal injury is usually pain when you straighten your leg, or even difficulty in actually straightening your leg. Pain can be severe if a torn fragment of meniscus catches between the shinbone (tibia) and the thighbone (femur) when you walk. You may also experience swelling, especially after an injury, which may continue for several months. It is important to seek meniscal tear treatment advice from a Knee Surgeon if symptoms persist for a proper diagnosis. Not all meniscal tears require surgery, but in some cases, this may be the best option to ensure recovery and relieve from pain.

How is Cartilage (Meniscal) Surgery Performed?

If your Knee Surgeon decides the best form of treatment for a meniscal tear is surgery, then more than likely it will be performed using an arthroscopy. Often an arthroscopy procedure is used as part of the diagnosis process, and the Knee Surgeon may choose to carry out any repair whilst performing an investigatory arthroscopy procedure, rather than carry out a second procedure at a later date.

Depending on the extent of the injury or deterioration of the cartilage, it could be that a cartilage repair, rather than removal of the torn part is possible. In the case of a cartilage repair, the meniscal surgery process will involve a Knee Surgeon placing tack or suturing the torn edges of the meniscus to allow them to head in their correct position and not get caught between the thighbone (femur) and the shinbone (tibia). Alternatively, the Knee Surgeon may also have to partially remove some of the torn meniscus. This works well if the meniscus tear is relatively small, but in some cases, it may be that the damage is so extensive that a repair cannot be carried out to guarantee problems not reoccurring in the future. In rare circumstances, the surgeon may opt to perform a complete removal of the damaged cartilage and replace with an implant.

Recovery from Cartilage (Meniscal) Repair Surgery

Depending on the type of meniscal surgery, you may be fully mobile within 24 hours, or alternatively, the surgeon may ask you to restrict movements in order to allow a meniscal repair to heal with minimal stresses on the repaired tissues.

A physiotherapy programme will be implemented as part of the rehabilitation and recovery process. It is very important to follow the advice of the Physiotherapist, as failure to do the physiotherapy exercises will seriously impede the recovery process.

After around 3 to 4 months, if your progress is good, you will be allowed to return back to normal activities and a brace or any form of knee protection will no longer be required. If you are a sports enthusiast, then you will need to ensure a slow and gradual return to sports.

Surgery Consultation Process

As with all surgical procedures, Mr Guido Geutjens, Specialist Knee Surgeon, takes all of his patients through a thorough examination and diagnosis process before any surgical procedure is performed. Mr Geutjens will always ensure that a surgical approach is the most appropriate option and will fully explain the benefits and risks involved with any surgical procedure before proceeding.

  • Q1 How easy is it to treat a cartilage tear?

    It is usual for the Knee Surgeon to carry out cartilage repairs using an arthroscopy procedure, which is relatively straight forward and arthroscopy is not as invasive as some other surgical procedures.

  • Q2 Will I be able to play sport again?

    You should be able to return to your old lifestyle, but there may be sporting restrictions placed upon you, depending on the amount of damage to the rest of the knee.