What You Should Know About the Different Types of Meniscal Tears

One of the most common of sports injuries is a meniscus tear. It’s what happens when the thin, C-shaped cartilage that cushions your shinbone from the thighbone is forcefully twisted or you rotate your knee – say, while pivoting in a game of pickup basketball. It doesn’t even have to be sports-related; a meniscus tear can be the result of years of micro-trauma to your knee.

However, not all meniscus tears are alike. There are different types that need to be treated differently to rid you of your knee pain. Some require surgery, and some do not. Some can be repaired, and others may need to be removed.

For example, there’s the bucket-handle tear and the flap tear. These are large, common types of meniscus tears that occur due to trauma or injury. The bucket-handle tear gets its name because the inner rim of the meniscus is torn and pulls away, making what’s left of the meniscus resemble a bucket handle that can be flipped over. If the parts gets stuck in the middle of the knee joint, it can cause the knee to lock.

Then there’s the flap tear. A meniscal flap tear  is the result of a horizontal meniscal tear that becomes displaced from its site or origin.

Other traumatic meniscus tears include short radial tears that extend from the inner margin of the meniscus toward its outer part and horizontal cleavage tears, in which a big portion of the meniscus is sliced in half, so that there are two discs resting on top of each other.

There are also degenerative meniscus tears that occur due to wear and tear, and not by trauma. Typically, these tears don’t generate a great deal of enduring pain because the tissue is simply worn out – or frayed – after years of use.

Meniscus tears are also categorized by whether they are “stable” or “unstable,” which helps determine whether the tear is repairable and whether your pain will diminish or persist. Bucket handle and radial tears are large, unstable tears that tend to remain painful and usually require arthroscopic surgery to repair or remove the torn cartilage, while degenerative tears are more tolerable, or the pain can be alleviated without surgery.

Horizontal tears are commonly the most responsive to repair because they run along the fibers of the meniscus and can be sewn together rather than removed.  A flap tear is an unusual pattern that can be removed without removing much tissue. Bucket handle tears often prevent the knee from bending because the torn portion of the cartilage is blocking knee motion, thus requiring more urgent surgical treatment.

And then there are complex tears, which are a combination of tear patterns, often being both radial and horizontal. Because of their complex nature, these tears are usually not treated with typical meniscus repair procedures. Although, in some cases, some of the torn cartilage may be removed and other portions repaired.

If you live in the area of Plano, Texas, Tarpon Orthopedics can help you regain the ability to move pain-free. We are experts in sports medicine, spine, and pain management, as well as joint replacement and meniscus repair. Call 9725961059 for a consultation today in one of our offices in West Plano, North Plano, or Addison, Texas.

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