The road to recovery: Treatment for meniscus tears

Written by: Mr Akash Patel
Edited by: Sophie Kennedy

Resolving symptoms of swelling and pain in the knee to make a full recovery from a meniscus tear can take considerable time. Depending on the severity, type and location of the meniscal tear, each patient’s treatment journey to recovery may differ. In this informative guide, revered consultant orthopaedic surgeon Mr Akash Patel shares his expert insight on what treatment for meniscus tears can entail, including when surgery is indicated and how long the healing process can take to complete.

How do meniscus tears occur?

The meniscus is essentially like a piece of rubber within the knee that acts as a shock absorber. It can become torn in two different ways; through traumatic events or through degeneration.

If a patient has an injury or trauma to the knee, this can be in the form of a tear of the meniscus and subsequently, degeneration occurs. In other cases, as time progresses with an otherwise healthy knee, we sustain wear and tear which is sometimes associated with osteoarthritis, a degeneration of the cartilage within the knee.

What can happen if a seriously torn meniscus tear is left untreated?

If a seriously torn meniscus tear is left untreated, the outcomes can be variable, depending on the patient's age as well as the type and location of the tear.

Sometimes, if a meniscus tear is left untreated, this can cause significant symptoms, such as pain, swelling, catching and clicking within the knee. When this happens, the untreated meniscus tear can potentially get worse as it gets caught in the knee and contribute to increasing symptoms. Along with the damaged and untreated meniscus, wear and tear, early arthritis within the knee, can also occur. Therefore, a seriously torn meniscus is certainly something that should be looked into.

Do minor meniscus tears require treatment?

Minor meniscus tears can be managed without surgery, through physiotherapy, activity modification and oral painkillers as required. Sometimes, this is all that is required and the problem may settle down. However, this healing process can take from six to 12 weeks, depending on the age of the patient, and the type and location of the tear.

Is surgery the only way to fix a torn meniscus?

Surgery is not the only way to fix a torn meniscus as not all cases require operative intervention. Some, depending upon the type and the location, may settle down with conservative measures after approximately six to 12 weeks.

What does meniscus tear surgery involve?

There are two types of procedures used in meniscus tear surgery. One is removal of the meniscus or the damaged fragments, known as meniscectomy. The second option is meniscal repair, where we take a look inside, put the meniscus in an appropriate position and fix it using keyhole surgery with special types of suture anchors.

How long does a treated meniscus tear take to heal without surgery?

Not all meniscus tears heal without surgery. On the balance of probabilities, a significantly torn meniscus which is also displaced will not heal without operative intervention. On the other hand, a small and minor peripheral tear in a young patient which is not displaced will heal without an operation over a period of around six to 12 weeks.

If you have sustained a knee injury or a meniscus tear and wish to schedule a consultation with Mr Patel to discuss a treatment plan, visit his Top Doctors profile today.

By Mr Akash Patel
Orthopaedic surgery

Mr Akash Patel is a consultant trauma and orthopaedic surgeon based in London and is an Associate Professor (University College London). He specialises in knee arthroscopies, hip arthroscopy and meniscus repair as well as cruciate ligament (ACL), hip replacement and knee replacement. He privately practices at St John & St Elizabeth Hospital, the Royal Free Hospital - Private Patient Unit and BMI The Kings Oak Hospital as well as The Wellington Hospital. His NHS base is the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust.

Mr Patel, who is double-fellowship trained, prides himself in providing the best-possible outcomes for his patients while using evidence-based technologies and enhanced recovery techniques. He also utilises innovative, non-invasive treatments for management of hip and knee disorders including biologics (PRP) and bracing.

Mr Patel is highly qualified and double-fellowship trained. He graduated from University College London (UCL) with an MBBS (2005) and a BSc (Hons) in Neuroscience. Following this, he undertook trauma and orthopaedic training on the Imperial Northwest London rotation. Towards the end of his training, he was awarded various fellowships including international ones in locations including Australia, Switzerland and South Africa. Mr Patel also has an MSc in Evidence-Based Orthopaedics from Warwick University.

Complementing his prestigious and well-earned clinical and academic career, Mr Patel is an Associate Professor at University College London and an honorary senior lecturer for Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust. Furthermore, his keen interest in advanced orthopaedic training for all healthcare professionals is reflected in his roles as an advanced trauma life support instructor for the Royal College of Surgeons of England and director for multiple national orthopaedic masterclass surgical training courses. 

Mr Patel has written various research papers that have been published in peer-reviewed journals, is a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons (England) and underwent prestigious specialist fellowships at Royal Berkshire and Royal Free London Hospitals. 

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