The menisci are small, semi-circular pieces of cartilage that act as a cushion in the knee. The knee has both an inner and outer meniscus. Treatment varies depending upon the extent and location of the tear; however, a large meniscus tear that causes pain or limits knee function may require arthroscopic surgery for repair. Surgeons often refer to this as "debriding" or "smoothing over" the tear.
Arthroscopic surgery avoids long, invasive incisions by using an arthroscope, a small tube-like instrument that allows the surgeon to see inside the joint. The arthroscope is inserted into the joint through a short incision generally less than 1/4" - 1/2". Several small incisions may be made to see other parts of the joint or to insert instruments. The arthroscope uses a camera that projects the image of the joint onto a monitor. The surgeon is able to view the joint, and its structures, including cartilage, ligaments and surrounding tissue. Once the problem is identified, the surgeon may be able to use specially designed instruments and/or implantable fixation devices to repair conditions or remove any damaged bone or tissue.
Few complications are to be expected with arthroscopy surgery. Those that may occur are infection, blood clot formation, swelling or bleeding, damage to blood vessels or nerves, failure to improve symptoms and breakage or migration of implants.
Arthroscopic surgery rarely takes more than an hour or two for isolated injuries. Most patients who have arthroscopic surgery are discharged within the same day. The small skin incision wounds take several days to heal. Several follow-up appointments may be necessary. Typically, during the first of these, the physician removes the sutures, tape or stitches. The patient can usually resume daily activities within a few days, but the injury may require several weeks to months to fully recover.
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