Partial Meniscectomy: Everything You Need to Know 

Have you been experiencing knee pain, locking, or a feeling that your knee might give way? It could be a meniscus tear. Your meniscus, a C-shaped piece of cartilage in your knee, plays a crucial role in shock absorption and stability. 

Sometimes, injuries or wear and tear can damage this essential structure. In certain cases, a partial meniscectomy may be a solution to get you back on your feet.

Learn more about partial meniscectomy and if this procedure could be the answer to your knee problems.

What is a partial meniscectomy?

Your knee joint contains two menisci – the medial meniscus on the inside and the lateral meniscus on the outside. These act as cushions between your thigh bone (femur) and shinbone (tibia). 

A partial meniscectomy is a surgical procedure where a small portion of the damaged meniscus is removed. This is done arthroscopically, using tiny incisions and specialized surgical tools.

The key difference from a full meniscectomy is that in a partial procedure, surgeons aim to preserve as much healthy meniscus tissue as possible. This is important because the meniscus plays a crucial role in knee health.

Why do you need a partial meniscectomy?

Not all meniscus tears require surgery. However, a partial meniscectomy might be recommended if:

  • Tear type: Certain types of tears, like complex or bucket-handle tears, may not heal on their own.
  • Symptoms: You have persistent pain, swelling, locking, catching, or instability in the knee despite trying conservative treatment.
  • Conservative treatment fails: Rest, ice, compression, elevation (RICE), physical therapy, and pain medication haven't provided adequate relief.

The goal of a partial meniscectomy is to remove the torn and unstable part of the meniscus to alleviate pain and improve the patient’s normal range of movement.

This procedure also aims to preserve as much of the meniscus as possible, which can delay the development of osteoarthritis in the knee.

How is the procedure performed?

A partial meniscectomy is generally performed as an outpatient procedure under general or regional anesthesia. Here's what you can expect:

  1. Preparation

You'll lie on your back on the operating table with your knee slightly bent. The surgical area is cleaned and sterilized to prevent infection.

  1. Arthroscopic surgery

The surgeon makes two or three very small incisions around your knee. Next, a narrow tube with a tiny camera (arthroscope) is inserted into one of the incisions, transmitting images of the inside of your knee to a monitor.

A sterile fluid is pumped into the joint to expand the knee for better visualization and to flush out debris. The surgeon will then carefully examine the meniscus to identify the extent of the tear.

  1. Torn meniscus removal

Through the other incisions, the surgeon introduces specialized surgical tools, including:

  • Probes: To assess the meniscus and tear pattern
  • Graspers and Scissors: To grasp and trim the unstable or torn portions of the meniscus.
  • Shavers: To smooth the edges of the remaining meniscus and remove any loose fragments.

The surgeon aims to preserve as much healthy meniscus tissue as possible to maintain knee function and stability.

  1. Incision closure

The arthroscope and surgical instruments are carefully removed. The incisions are closed with small stitches or adhesive strips. Lastly, a bandage is then applied to the knee.

A partial meniscectomy typically takes under an hour. In most cases, you'll be able to go home the same day of your surgery.

What is the recovery process after a partial meniscectomy?

Here's a breakdown of the recovery process after a partial meniscectomy, including immediate care, physical therapy, and a general timeline:

Immediately after surgery

You'll likely go home the same day. You may need crutches or a brace initially for support. Keep the leg elevated and apply ice to manage pain and swelling.

Physical therapy

Physical therapy is vital. It focuses on regaining range of motion, strengthening the muscles around your knee, and gradually returning to activities.

Recovery timeline

While individual recovery varies, here's a general timeline:

  • First few days: Manage pain and swelling and care for incisions. You might use crutches or a brace.
  • 1-2 weeks: Begin physical therapy, walking comfortably, and performing light daily activities.
  • 3-6 weeks: Continue physical therapy with increasing exercise intensity and a gradual return to regular activities.
  • Several months: Most people achieve full recovery by 3-6 months, including regaining strength and returning to sports or high-impact activities.

Follow-up appointments

It’s important to stay in touch with your surgeon, physical therapist, and healthcare team throughout the recovery process. 

During follow-up appointments, they will evaluate and give you instructions on when it’s safe to return to specific activities. 

Additionally, your healthcare team will provide guidance on lifestyle adjustments you may need to make. This may include maintaining a healthy weight and doing low-impact exercises to protect your knee in the long run. 

What are the long-term outcomes after a partial meniscectomy?

A partial meniscectomy is a highly successful procedure for many. It offers significant pain relief and improved knee function.  However, it's important to be aware of a few things:

  • Increased arthritis risk: While the risk is small, removing a part of the meniscus increases your chances of developing osteoarthritis in the future.
  • Lifestyle modifications: You might need to modify high-impact activities to protect your knee joint long-term.

Restore Your Mobility and Comfort at Orthopaedic Surgery Center of Panther Creek

If you're facing knee pain that hasn't responded to conservative treatment, and your doctor has recommended a partial meniscectomy, the Orthopaedic Surgery Center of Panther Creek can offer you the highest level of surgical care paired with patient-focused support.

At the Orthopaedic Surgery Center of Panther Creek, we are committed to leading the way in orthopedic excellence. By combining cutting-edge technology with a dedication to patient well-being, we strive to help you get back to doing the things you love pain-free.

Schedule an appointment with the best Panther Creek orthopedics. For more information, contact our outpatient orthopedic surgery center at 919-582-3050.

The material contained on this site is for informational purposes only and DOES NOT CONSTITUTE THE PROVIDING OF MEDICAL ADVICE, and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgment, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health.

outpatient orthopedic surgery cary
6715 McCrimmon Parkway
Suite 205 A 
Cary, NC 27519
Monday – Friday: 6:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
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