The meniscus is a C-shaped ring of cartilage that acts as a cushion between the tibia and femur in the knee. Each knee has both a medial and a lateral meniscus. The meniscus can be torn due to trauma or can be damaged from normal wear and tear. The meniscus naturally protects the underlying cartilage of the knee joint. When people undergo surgery for a torn meniscus, a piece of this natural cushion is removed. Over 700,000 meniscus surgeries are performed per year on average in the United States. The vast majority of the surgeries are not needed.
A recent study https://www.thieme-connect.de/products/ejournals/abstract/10.1055/s-0038-1646926 examined the effect of arthroscopic partial meniscectomy and long-term effect on the knee joint. Researchers compared radiologic images before and many years after meniscectomy. On average this was 8 years later. Results showed a 63% of the knees operated on developed arthritis whereas 28% of the opposite knee developed arthritis in the same patient. Clearly there is a significant increase in risk for having surgery.
Another study examining the need for meniscus surgery published in the New England Journal of Medicine, showed no benefit. In this study 146 patient’s ages 35-64 were randomized to meniscal surgery versus sham surgery and no benefit was noted for the group that underwent the meniscal surgery. https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1305189?query=featured_home
A recent study https://www.mdpi.com/1422-0067/20/4/856/htm on PRP as a treatment option for meniscal tears showed positive effects, 52% in the PRP group versus 30% in the control. Also, none of these patients underwent surgery so they don’t have the increased risk of arthritis a later time.
What does all this mean?
Just because your MRI may show a torn meniscus, you should think twice before considering meniscus surgery. Surgery will greatly increase your risk for developing arthritis later in life and multiple studies have shown that the surgeries are not indicated.
At Regenexx Pittsburgh we have a better way. Our state-of-the-art PRP and stem cell treatments are non-surgical options that can heal your torn meniscus and prevent the development of arthritis later in life. Schedule your consultation with one of our board-certified physicians to discuss the most effective treatment options.