What is Meniscus Deficiency?
When individuals discuss an articular cartilage injury in the knee, many of them are referring to a torn meniscus. The meniscus is a “c” shaped cushion of cartilage found in the knee responsible for acting like a “shock absorber” between the thighbone (femur) and shinbone (tibia). The meniscus is very tough and rubbery to help stabilize the joint, much different than articular cartilage that is slippery and smooth. If an injury to the meniscus occurs, such as a torn meniscus, patients will experience chronic pain and swelling, typically leading to arthritis of the joint if left untreated. Dr. Matthew Provencher, Vail, Aspen, Colorado Springs and Denver, Colorado area orthopedic knee specialist, treats patients who have experienced a damaged meniscus and loss of cartilage.
The medial meniscus, located on the inside of the knee, absorbs approximately 50% of stress placed on the knee joint during activities. The lateral meniscus, located on the outside of the knee, absorbs approximately 70% of stress placed on the knee’s lateral compartment during activities. Both structures work together to help provide knee stability and to help prolong health of the joint. If a patient experiences a severe torn meniscus or other articular cartilage injury, the meniscus may break away or wear down over time, leading to painful knee arthritis in many cases. The outer one-third of the meniscus, known as the “red zone”, has a rich blood supply, which may heal on its own if the tear is small. However, the inner two-thirds of the meniscus, known as the “white zone”, has a lack of blood supply, and is incapable of healing on its own.
What are Symptoms of Meniscus Deficiency?
A torn meniscus causes patients to experience knee pain, swelling, a sensation that the knee is “stuck” in position and difficulty bending and straightening the leg. Patients may also experience a “popping” sensation at the time of injury. Patients who experience meniscus loss also experience similar symptoms.
How to Know if you Have Meniscus Deficiency
A proper physical examination must be performed by Dr. Provencher in order to diagnose a torn meniscus or other articular cartilage injury. Dr. Provencher commonly uses an MRI scan to determine tear pattern and to determine how much cartilage is remaining within the joint. He may also perform a series of x-rays to confirm there is no additional damage to the bony structures.