Meniscectomy for a Torn Meniscus

A meniscectomy is a type of arthroscopic surgery used for treatment of a meniscus tear. Javier Larrea / Getty Images

When you have a torn meniscus in your knee, a meniscectomy may be recommended if you have specific mechanical symptoms related to the tear. Not all meniscus tears require surgery. Partial meniscectomy is an arthroscopic surgical procedure performed through small incisions with the aid of a small camera inserted into the joint.​

How Arthroscopy Works

Arthroscopic surgery is a procedure that is used to look inside a joint. Through one small incision (about 1 centimeter) a small camera, about the size of a pencil, is inserted into the joint. Using one or more other small incisions, your surgeon places other instruments inside the knee to perform the procedure.

Incisions for arthroscopy are quite small, usually about 1 centimeter each. The incisions are often closed with one suture that is either outside or underneath the skin. A bandage is placed over the arthroscopic incisions for at least several days to keep the incisions sterile.

In the case of an arthroscopic meniscectomy, the torn area of the meniscus can be removed using a number of instruments, including small shavers and scissors.2 The arthroscope will also allow your surgeon to inspect the rest of the knee joint, looking for signs of arthritis, loose pieces of cartilage in the knee, the ligaments of the knee, and other problems that may occur inside the joint.

Does Arthroscopic Meniscectomy Hurt?

Usually, minimal pain is associated with arthroscopic knee surgery. An anesthesiologist will be with you for the entire procedure to ensure you are comfortable. Following the procedure, you will be given instructions on what type of pain medicine to take if you do experience discomfort. Icing the knee is helpful for the first few days after surgery, as is keeping the knee elevated.

There are several options for anesthesia, all of which can work for most arthroscopic procedures. These include:

  • General Anesthesia: General anesthesia allows you to sleep through the procedure. An anesthesiologist monitors your breathing and vital signs throughout the surgery, and you are awakened once the procedure is completed.
  • Regional Anesthesia: This includes epidural and spinal anesthesia. These options are acceptable for most types of knee arthroscopy. They allow patients to remain awake during the procedure.
  • Local AnesthesiaLocal anesthesia is an option for some types of knee arthroscopy. The surgery is usually done with light sedation, and the patient may require general anesthesia if the procedure becomes uncomfortable.

Will I Need Crutches?

For some arthroscopic knee procedures, crutches are given only for comfort. However, some procedures, such as ACL reconstruction and meniscus repair, may require longer use of crutches. Always check with your doctor before discontinuing crutch use.

Rehab After Meniscectomy Surgery

Patients who undergo arthroscopic partial meniscectomy for treatment of a meniscus tear can usually return to normal activities relatively quickly. Most patients take a few days or a long weekend off work. If the meniscus is removed (partial meniscectomy) as the primary procedure, then there are usually few activity restrictions, although higher level activities such as running may initially be restricted. Patients are typically allowed to walk and move normally, so long as they don't have pain.

It depends on your comfort level. For most meniscectomies, patients can resume their activities as tolerated. For most patients, this means returning to normal walking within a few days to a week, returning to jogging within a month, and returning to sports within 4 to 8 weeks. Some patients take longer, others are quicker.

You must check with your doctor about your specific rehabilitation, as there may be reasons to protect your knee for a longer period of time. Only your doctor can tell you exactly what your specific rehab should be.

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  1. Cleveland Clinic. Knee arthroscopy

  2. Jeong HJ, Lee SH, Ko CS. Meniscectomy. Knee Surg Relat Res. 2012;24(3):129-36. doi:10.5792/ksrr.2012.24.3.129

  3. Cleveland Clinic. Meniscal tears.

  4. Anetzberger H, Birkenmaier C, Lorenz S. Meniscectomy: Indications, procedure, outcomes, and rehabilitation. Dovepress. 2013;2014:1-9. doi:10.2147/ORR.S54669

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