If knee pain caused by a torn meniscus is affecting your quality of life, you are probably seeking the best treatment available so you can resume an active, pain-free lifestyle. One of the most common procedures in the U.S. to treat a meniscus injury is an arthroscopic meniscectomy – the surgical removal of all or part of a torn meniscus through small incisions on the knee.
While hundreds of thousands of partial meniscectomies are performed every year, that doesn’t necessarily mean this procedure is right for everyone who is experiencing knee pain. Here are five considerations to help you decide if this procedure is right for you:
1. Meniscus injuries can often be managed without surgery.
Some possibilities for pain management include physical therapy to restore knee strength and mobility, injections such as cortisone or hyaluronic acid to reduce inflammation, and recently developed stem-cell therapy that may help heal the injured tissue.
2. Over the past few years, several studies found that meniscectomy is not better than non-surgical care for healing meniscal tears.
The results of a 2013 study in the New England Journal of Medicine indicate that surgeons across the country may be performing way more knee surgeries than necessary. You can read more about this study in the New York Times and CNN.
3. Before deciding on surgery, be sure you and your doctor can determine whether your knee pain is actually caused by the torn meniscus.
There’s a possibility that something else – including osteoarthritis, which often accompanies tears, ligament damage or simple overuse – could be the source of your pain.
4. While knee surgery may be effective in reducing pain in the short-term, the risk of osteoarthritis may increase later in life.
A recent study shows those who undergo a partial meniscectomy have over three times higher risk of developing osteoarthritis and needing a total knee replacement later in life.
5. The world’s first meniscus replacement is available in select European markets.
The NUsurface® Implant is the world’s first medial meniscus replacement. As an alternative to knee replacement, the implant – which is made of medical grade plastic and inserted into the knee through a small incision – has seen great results in Europe and Israel. While it’s not meant to take the place of a total knee replacement later in life, it may serve as an opportunity to treat knee pain and keep patients active until much more invasive knee surgery is a viable option – while potentially reducing the need for second knee replacement surgeries later in life.
A Meniscectomy Could Be Necessary
While the recent studies are encouraging people to rethink the need for meniscectomies, some surgeons believe there are some situations for which knee surgery remains your best bet. Good candidates for the surgery include those with a documented meniscus tear who have tried extensive physical therapy and still experience pain, or those who can’t extend the knee or experience frequent “catching” or “locking.” For any knee pain that’s interfering with your life, see a specialist who can help develop a treatment plan that’s right for you.