A partial meniscectomy is a surgical procedure performed arthroscopically or in a minimally invasive manner to remove part of the damaged meniscus tissue/cartilage in the knee due to a meniscus tear or degeneration. Meniscus tears can occur in one of two places – the red zone which has rich blood flow or the white zone which lacks blood supply. Red zone tears can often be repaired using a meniscus repair procedure. However, white zone tears have ahrder time healing, and the torn cartilage usually will be trimmed or cut away.
When is Surgery Considered?
When rest, ice, compression and elevation do not successfully alleviate the symptoms of a meniscus tear, a partial meniscectomy may be considered. We typically consider a partial cartilage removal rather than a total meniscectomy, where all of the meniscus is removed, to slow the progression of arthritis in the knee and maintain as much stability in the knee joint as possible. Even when the tear is significant, a partial meniscectomy can offer a return to full function. However, depending on your activity level, we may recommend avoiding certain activities that can increase the risk of arthritis.
How a Partial Meniscectomy Works
A partial meniscectomy is performed on an outpatient basis, meaning you do not have to stay overnight at the hospital or surgery center. It is performed in a minimally invasive or arthroscopic manner using only 2 to 4 small incisions in the knee. The procedure is usually performed under local regional anesthesia – general anesthesia is not sometimes necessary. We begin with a diagnostic arthroscopy to check the tear and assess the best course of action to repair it. We also look for any damage in the other structures of the knee. Ultimately, we look to preserve as much cartilage as possible so that its supportive properties are kept intact. At this point we begin to smooth the edges of the torn cartilage by trimming it away with a special miniature instrument.
The risks of a partial meniscectomy include those that are inherent to any surgical procedure including infection, blood clots, swelling and the potential for less than desirable outcomes. However, a partial meniscectomy, in particular, has an excellent safety and effectiveness profile. Proper aftercare and following the discharge instructions can mitigate many potential complications. Choosing an experienced orthopedic surgeon such as those at Premier Orthopaedic & Trauma Specialists also goes a long way to reducing your risks.
Most patients will progress in their recovery rather quickly and return to normal daily function within approximately 7 to 10 days. Immediately after surgery, patients will need to avoid placing full weight on their knee and will therefore require crutches for 2 to 3 days. A course of physical therapy may also be recommended to strengthen the supportive muscles around the knee. A return to more strenuous activities including sports will require at least two months.
All in all, a partial meniscectomy offers excellent results with a very low rate of complications. Most patients will return to their former activity, however, should be aware that removing cartilage from the knee does increase the risk of arthritis 10 or 20 years down the road.
To learn more about a partial meniscectomy and to schedule a consultation with one of our orthopedic surgeons, please contact us.