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Meniscus Tear

Twisting or over-flexing the knee can cause a tear in the meniscus cartilage in the knee. Meniscus tears are a common cause of knee pain, especially in athletes.

Each knee has two menisci, one on the inner edge (medial) and one on the outer edge (lateral). These tough, springy cartilage discs act as “shock absorbers,” forming a protective cushion between the bones. They also help to lubricate the knee joint and keep the knee from over-extending during normal movements, such as walking.

When a meniscus tear keeps your knee from working properly, orthopedic specialists at Rush can help you get back to normal activity.

Meniscus tears: what you should know

  • Meniscus tears often happen at the same time as anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears.
  • Often, meniscus tears can’t be prevented. But using proper technique when playing sports or exercising can help protect the knee, including the menisci.
  • Orthopedic surgeons at Rush have played a key role in developing treatments to repair and replace meniscus cartilage, including innovative biological therapies to restore damaged areas of cartilage and relieve pain.

How can I get help for a meniscus tear?

See your doctor or a primary care sports medicine doctor if you have these symptoms after a knee injury:

  • A “pop” at the time of injury (also a symptom of an ACL tear)
  • Knee joint pain when walking
  • Knee pain in the space between the bones that gets worse when gentle pressure is applied to the joint
  • Locking of the knee joint
  • A feeling that something is caught in your knee and is popping as the knee bends back and forth (this is called “catching”)
  • Difficulty squatting down
  • Swelling in the knee joint

Care for meniscus tears at Rush

If you have a torn meniscus, your doctor will refer you to an orthopedic surgeon at Rush who specializes in treating cartilage injuries. Your surgeon will go over all of your treatment options and help you decide which one is right for you:

  • Nonoperative treatment: Not all meniscus tears require surgery, and many patients can attain complete relief with nonoperative therapies.
  • Repairs: Some meniscus tears can be repaired with surgery. Because they realize the important protective role of the meniscus, orthopedic surgeons at Rush repair it whenever possible. They remove only the areas that are too badly damaged to restore.
  • Meniscus removal surgery: Tears in certain areas of the meniscus can’t be mended with surgery. In these cases, the meniscus may need to be removed. This procedure is called a meniscectomy.
  • Meniscus transplant: For patients who have had the meniscus completely removed in a previous surgery, the missing meniscus can be replaced with a human meniscus transplant. At Rush, surgeons perform meniscectomy in an outpatient surgical setting using small incisions (arthroscopic surgery).

Why choose Rush for meniscus care

  • The orthopedics program at Rush is consistently ranked among the best in the country by U.S. News & World Report.
  • Sports medicine surgeons at Rush offer a full range of innovative treatments for damaged meniscus cartilage. Recognized as a leader in cartilage treatment and research, Rush draws patients from across Illinois, the Midwest and the U.S.
  • Sports medicine specialists at Rush are team doctors for the Chicago Bulls, Chicago White Sox, DePaul Blue Demons and many other teams and organizations. In this role, they treat meniscus tears in many athletes, and work with athletes to prevent these and other knee injuries.
  • The Orthopedic Building at Rush gives you one convenient place to go for knee care. You can see an orthopedic specialist, get your imaging tests, have outpatient procedures, and go through rehabilitation — all under one roof.

Departments and programs that treat this condition