Thursday, February 7, 2013

Different Types of Meniscal Tears

In a recent blog post, we discussed meniscal tears and treatment of these injuries.  Today we will take a look at the 3 different shapes of meniscal tears. To recap, the meniscus is a c-shaped piece of cartilage in the knee that acts as a cushion between the thigh bone and shin bone. The primary function of the meniscus is to keep the knee stable and act as a shock absorber.

Types of Meniscal Tears:

1.      Longitudinal 
2.      Radial 
3.      Horizontal
Longitudinal Meniscal Tears
A longitudinal tear runs along the meniscus.  If the longitudinal tear is partial, it can heal without surgical intervention. If it does not heal properly, however, it can often lead to a full bucket handle tear (a complete tear that goes through the meniscus). Longitudinal tears are very common in young athletes and often present in conjunction with an ACL tear.

Radial Tears
Radial Tears occur along the inner edge of the meniscus and can be either partial or full.  Two common radial tears are oblique tears and parrot’s beak tears.  Oblique tears are probably the most common type of meniscal tears.  

Horizontal Tears
This type of tear goes through the meniscus and splits the meniscus into a top and bottom section. These tears are not as common and often begin as a result of degeneration or a minor injury.  Unfortunately, if left untreated, horizontal tears can leave the patient more susceptible to the more serious horizontal flap tear and can become complicated to fix. 

Developing a Treatment Plan:
It is important to remember that there are some key factors to consider when developing a treatment plan for a meniscal tear.  These factors include:

  1. Patient’s age
  2. Patient’s activity level 
  3. Shape/location of the tear (complex tears can be a combination of longitudinal, radial and horizontal)
  4. Related injuries (if any) that are present

Age and activity level are important to the success of a surgical repair of the meniscus. The younger and more active the patient, the more likely the repair will be successful. It is also extremely important to evaluate other injuries. For example, if you repair the meniscus, but fail to repair an ACL tear, recovery will be compromised. A full evaluation of each patient is necessary to determine an appropriate treatment plan.

If you feel you have a meniscal tear, it is important to see a doctor and he/she will develop a treatment plan that is best for you.