The appropriate therapy of an external meniscus tear is of enormous importance. Cartilage tissue is only able to heal on its own to a very limited extent, since it is neither nerves nor blood vessels and is therefore poorly supplied with nutrients necessary for the healing process. Therefore, if a tear remains untreated for a longer period of time, there is a high risk that the affected person will suffer consequential damage over time.
Very often, for example, knee joint arthrosis occurs. Which type of treatment is chosen for an external meniscus tear depends on many different factors. In addition to age, the individual condition of the patient (for example, relevant previous illnesses such as osteoarthritis) and his or her special wishes (for example, it is important to know whether sports activities are still planned on a large scale), the objectifiable extent of the damage to the outer meniscus tear plays a particularly important role.
In the case of minor damage (this includes, among other things, tears of the outer meniscus which are shorter than 1 cm and are located in the outer area of the meniscus), one usually first tries conservative treatment. This involves immobilising the knee for a certain period of time. Special splints and walking aids can be considered as aids.
Gradually, the patient should put weight on the joint again. Physiotherapeutic exercises are particularly important to train the muscles. If necessary, painkillers or measures such as electrotherapy or manual techniques can be used to accompany the treatment of a torn outer meniscus.
More severe damage, on the other hand, usually requires surgical treatment. Here, the method of choice is arthroscopy, where different surgical techniques can be used. This is a minimally invasive procedure, which means that only very small skin incisions are needed to operate.
Whenever possible, an attempt is made to preserve as much of the outer meniscus as possible and only the outer meniscus tears are treated by suturing. In addition, affected areas of the cartilage can be smoothed. However, in more extensive defects or in cases where the tear is located in the part of the outer meniscus that is not supplied with blood, there is no way around removing part of the meniscus (partial resection).
Even if pieces have completely detached from the meniscus in the course of the injury and are present freely in the joint, they are removed in order not to cause further damage later. In very few patients (if the meniscus is completely destroyed, for example), it can be useful to remove the entire outer meniscus. It is then either replaced by an artificial meniscus implant or a donor meniscus.
Following all these operations, it is exactly the same as with conservative treatment, to slowly restore the affected knee to its original state step by step. Complications during surgery for a torn outer meniscus are extremely rare. There may be bleeding or nerve damage.
In addition, as with any surgical procedure, there is a certain risk of wound healing disorders or infections. However, the vast majority of patients survive the therapy without any problems and regain a fully functional knee joint after a certain period of time.