Many people experience knee pain, popping or cracking, or swelling following their meniscus surgery.
Knee pain in general and knee awareness improved most 1 year after meniscal surgery. The meniscus is a cushion of tissue that protects the cartilage in the knee joint. It rests between the upper and lower leg bones where they meet to form the knee joint. The meniscus can become torn due to wear and tear, most commonly, or trauma due to an injury.
Surgeons love to operate on the meniscus and do so to the tune of about 700,000 surgeries a year. We have some research already that shows that meniscectomy isn’t good for your knee cartilage. For example, check out this study that demonstrated that meniscus surgery likely increases the onset of arthritis.
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A meniscectomy, which accounts for over 95% of meniscus surgeries, involves excising, or removing, pieces of the meniscus. A surgeon will access the knee joint (via an open incision or an arthroscope) and cut out the torn piece of meniscus. Knowing the meniscus is there to protect the cartilage, it’s easy to understand why slicing out pieces of it could leave the cartilage vulnerable and potentially lead to arthritis.
It’s important to understand that just because your MRI shows a meniscus tear, this doesn’t mean you need surgery, especially in middle-aged or elderly patients. Watch my video below to get a more in-depth understanding of this: The purpose of the new study was to investigate how meniscectomy affected the knee structure long term. The study consisted of 57 patients, each having received an arthroscopic partial meniscectomy (for traumatic or degenerative meniscus tears) within a period of 5 to 12 years (8 years average) prior. Using radiology images both before and in the years following meniscectomy, researchers studied the meniscectomy knee and compared it to the opposite knee that did not undergo surgery.
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Nearly 63% of knee meniscus surgery patients developed knee arthritis in the meniscectomy knee within 8 years, on average, following surgery. Compare this to the opposite knee that was not operated on: 28% developed arthritis in that same time period. A few other interesting findings included knee arthritis in the medial compartment of the knee in males that was just under 9% prior to surgery and climbed to nearly 59% during the study period (females went from 26% to 73%). For obese patients, 18% had medial knee arthritis prior to meniscus surgery while a whopping 100% had it in the years following.
Finally, in patients who had degenerative meniscus tears (tears due to wear and tear), 10% had medial knee arthritis prior to surgery while just under 67% had knee arthritis after. In patients with traumatic meniscus tears (injury related), 21% had medial knee arthritis prior to surgery while 63% had knee arthritis after.
Another reason for knee pain 1 year after meniscus surgery is new-onset arthritis. As per the research, the knee is more susceptible to arthritis after meniscus surgery. The researchers looked at structural changes on knee MRIs over an 18-month period after surgery. The results? In the knee meniscus surgery group, 60% (compared to 33% in the physical therapy group) had damage to the cartilage and more-advanced bone spurs. The conclusion, meniscus surgery is causing more arthritis.
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First, don’t get another meniscus surgery! Second, consider new orthobiologic treatments rather than more surgery. Platelet-rich plasma has been shown to be effective in many different high-level clinical trials.
Meniscus surgery where the doctor yanks the torn piece out is not a good idea. In fact, it causes more and not less arthritis. If you find yourself in this bad spot, don’t get more surgery. Find a Regenexx physician to see if we can help you make your next move.
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