Often times, when people talk about torn cartilage in the knee, they are usually referring to torn meniscus. The meniscus is a C-shaped cushion of cartilage in the knee joint. At this time there is no known medicine or therapy that will heal or fix a torn meniscus.
This usually means either partial excision (removal) or repair of the tear is necessary. Excision versus repair is often decided at the time of arthroscopic surgery.
The type of procedure decided by the surgeon will depend upon several factors:
- the patient’s age
- the age of the tear
- the size and location
- as well as the patient’s activity level
All these factors play a role in deciding whether a tear can be repaired or must be excised. In general, due to the essential role of the meniscus in protecting the knee from early arthritis, repair when possible, is always preferable to removal. Only tears in the outermost regions of the knee can be repaired.
Many meniscal tears do not occur at the periphery, where there is a blood supply for healing and cannot be repaired. The torn portion must be surgically removed. Losing a large portion of the meniscus cushion in your healthy knee can lead to persistent knee pain and arthritis could develop. For many older patients with this condition, a knee joint replacement might be the right option.
A meniscal transplant replaces the damaged meniscus with donor cartilage.
Meniscal transplants are not right for everyone and are uncommonly done. If you already have arthritis in your knee, a meniscal transplant may not help you. But for a select group of young, active patients, meniscal transplants can offer significant pain relief.