Orthopedics & Sports Medicine

What is a Meniscus Tear?

What Exactly is a Meniscus?

You probably already know that the meniscus is an important part of the knee joint, but do you know exactly where it is and what it does? The meniscus is two C-shaped pieces of tough cartilage that lie between the femur (thigh bone) and tibia (shin bone). They act as cushion and shock absorbers. The meniscus can tear either suddenly during activity or slowly over time, which is called a degenerative tear. In older individuals whose meniscus has worn down over the years, something as simple as getting out of a car can cause a meniscus tear. Some people are able to live with a meniscus tear. Others may require surgery to repair or remove the portion of damaged meniscus.

Which Surgery is Appropriate for a Meniscus Tear?

Surgeons decide whether to repair or remove the meniscus based upon which part of the meniscus is torn. The outer third of the meniscus has a blood supply and is referred to as the “red zone.” Tears in the red zone can often be repaired because its blood supply allows the edges of the tear to heal after being stitched together surgically. However, the inner two thirds of the meniscus does not have a blood supply and is called the “white zone.” When the meniscus is torn in the white zone, it cannot be repaired and is trimmed away instead in a surgical procedure called a partial meniscectomy. Both surgeries are done arthroscopically, meaning that the procedure is done with tools inserted into the knee joint through very small incisions. 

Meniscus Tear