Meniscus is cartilage in the knee joint. It helps to stabilize and cushion the knee. A meniscectomy is the removal of all or part of the meniscus.
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Reasons for Procedure
A meniscectomy is done when the cartilage is damaged. Damaged cartilage can cause pain or give you problems with knee motion.
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
- Excess bleeding
- Blood clots
- Chronic weakness in knee joint
- Worsening or unchanged pain
Factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
- Poor nutrition
- History of blood clots
- Long-term illness
- Use of certain medications
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
Your doctor may do the following:
Talk to your doctor about your medications. You may be asked to stop taking some medications up to 1 week before the procedure
Do not eat or drink anything after midnight the day before your surgery, unless told otherwise by your doctor.
Anesthesia will keep you pain-free and comfortable during the procedure. Depending on the procedure, anesthesia may be:
- Local—the area around the knee will be numbed
- Spinal—your lower body will be numbed from an injection into the back
- General anesthesia —you will be asleep
Description of the Procedure
There are 2 methods for meniscectomy. The more common procedure is called arthroscopy. Arthrotomy, an open technique, is rarely used. This may also be referred to as an open meniscectomy.
Small incisions are made around the knee. Special tools are inserted into the knee joint. A tiny camera will provide a view of the inside of the knee. The damaged meniscus is either repaired or removed. The goal is to remove as little cartilage as possible. A drain may be inserted to drain away fluid. The incisions are closed with stitches.
A larger incision is made over the knee joint. The meniscus is then either repaired or removed. The incision is closed with stitches. It usually results in a longer recovery period. This process is usually done when there are problems with the knee that make the arthroscopic procedure difficult.
How Long Will It Take?
The procedure usually takes less than 1 hour.
How Much Will It Hurt?
Anesthesia will block pain during the procedure. You will have pain after the procedure. Ask your doctor about medication to help manage pain.
At the Care Center
Right after the procedure, the staff will monitor your recovery. The staff may give you:
- Pain medication
- Antibiotics to prevent infection
- Medication that prevents blood clots
When you return home, you will need to:
- Use crutches or a knee splint as directed by your doctor.
- Do exercises as recommended. You may start with simple thigh muscle exercises the day after surgery. More strengthening exercises will be added later.
- Be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions.
If the meniscus was removed, it generally takes 3-6 weeks to return to full activities.
If the cartilage was repaired, it can take up to 4 months for full recovery. The goal of the first week is to reduce pain and swelling. After this, the goals are to increase range of motion and weight-bearing. Physical therapy is often done several times a week for 4 weeks or more. At 6-8 weeks, low impact activities can often be added. This will help to prepare you to return to sports or activities. Running, cutting, and rotation are avoided for at least 16 weeks.
Call Your Doctor
Contact your doctor if your recovery is not progressing as expected or you develop complications such as:
- Signs of infection, such as fever and chills
- Redness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or discharge from the incision site
- Pain, redness, or swelling in either calf
- Pain that you cannot control with the medications you have been given
- Nausea and vomiting
- Swollen, discolored, or cold toes
- Cough, shortness of breath, or chest pain
- New or worsening symptoms
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
Arthroscopy. Johns Hopkins Medicine website. Available at: http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/test_procedures/orthopaedic/arthroscopy_procedure_92,P07676/. Accessed March 27, 2018.
Knee arthroscopy. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00299. Updated September 2016. Accessed March 27, 2018.
Last reviewed March 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Teresa Briedwell, PT, DPT Last Updated: 4/29/2014