Cartilage problems are the most common source of knee pain. Millions of people in the United States complain of some type of cartilage problem annually that may have been caused by an injury or it may develop gradually without direct trauma. Whatever the cause, damaged cartilage can lead to pain and at times swelling, both of which make it difficult to maintain an active lifestyle without pain and discomfort. Fortunately, there are multiple treatment options for damaged cartilage.
Knee meniscal cartilage tears represent the most common knee problem leading to surgery in America. Meniscus damage can happen through routine daily activities that do not involve trauma or they can be a direct result of trauma from a sport or in a workplace accident. Once there is injury to the meniscal cartilage, the body's response often is pain and swelling. The knee may "lock," "give way," or "go out completely." Unfortunately, it is rare for a meniscus to heal without surgical intervention.
The goal of meniscal surgery is to maintain meniscal cartilage function. Knee surgeons recognize the protective value of the meniscal cartilage and they will recommend corrective surgery to restore normal function. In the past, the surgery required full exposure of the cartilage and removal of the meniscus but today’s minimally invasive techniques allow many more options for repair of the meniscus to help maintain function.
When the meniscal tear is beyond repair, it is treated by removing the torn portion known as a partial meniscectomy. It has been found, however, that patients who undergo a partial meniscectomy often show a development of arthritis in long-term follow-up studies.