Online Medical Library — Encyclopedia — Meniscal Transplants
What is a meniscus?
It is a c-shaped wedge of tough, rubbery cartilage in the knee about the size of a silver dollar. There are two menisci (plural of meniscus), one on each side of the knee joint. They act as shock absorbers, protecting the joint surface from daily wear and reducing friction between the thigh bone and shin bone. They also help stabilize the knee by controlling its rotation.
How is the meniscus injured?
Any sudden twisting of the knee can tear the cartilage, causing pain, swelling and a catching sensation. A “bucket-handle” tear, named for the shape of the tear, is a typical injury caused when the foot is planted in one direction and the knee twists in the other direction.
What has been the treatment for torn meniscus?
Since the turn of the century, the only treatment was to remove the entire cartilage wedge. Doctors now know that without the protection of the meniscus, the surface of the knee joint degenerates rapidly. The result is painful, disabling “wear and tear” arthritis (also called osteoarthritis) within 10 years for 70-90% of people.
The decision to repair or remove cartilage depends on the location and severity of the tear. If the meniscus cannot be repaired or has been previously removed, an innovative procedure called a meniscus transplant offers a positive solution.
What is a meniscus transplant?
The newest frontier of medical science has made it possible to transplant donor cartilage into your knee. The transplant is approximately an hour-long, out-patient arthroscopic procedure or in-patient procedure. The patient will be in the hospital for approximately two days for the in-patient procedure. In the case of the arthroscopic procedure, a regional anesthesia is usually used and you will go home the same day. In most cases you will wear an immobilizer to keep your leg straight during 4 weeks of physical therapy. Most patients can return to normal activities, including recreational sports, within 12 weeks.
Why should you have a meniscus transplant?
It can dramatically slow the onset of painful, disabling arthritis and avoid or delay the need for knee replacement at a very early age. A transplant can allow you to continue working and enjoying your favorite sports or fitness activities.
Who should have a meniscus transplant?
Anyone under the age of 50 who has had 50% or more of the meniscus removed is a candidate for a transplant. Also, anyone with a recent tear that cannot be repaired should consider a transplant. An x-ray and examination of your knee will determine if you can benefit from a meniscus transplant.
Where will I have incisions?
You will have only a 1" incision on the front of your knee, plus three “nicks” so small that a suture is not needed.
When can I return to work?
It varies with the activities your job requires, ranging from 3-4 days for desk jobs to 8 weeks for heavy labor.