What does torn meniscus look like?

What does torn meniscus look like? Blog  Torn Meniscus

Repairing a Tear in the Meniscus

A torn meniscus is going to mean immediate trouble for the individual experiencing it. Oftentimes, the knee will lock, causing the person with it to not be able to fully extend the leg, and they will not be able to bend it, either. This will require immediate treatment.

The Torn Meniscus – What It Looks Like

The knee has two large pieces of cartilage in it that are shaped like the letter C. They are on top of the tibia bone. Their purpose is to protect the bones in the upper leg from hitting the bone in your lower leg.

Stress between the bones is absorbed by the meniscus when you are active, such as when walking, jumping, climbing, or running. A meniscus is rubbery, but it can tear when rotating or twisting the knee, and keep your foot in place at the same time.

A tearing in the meniscus is a rather common injury, particularly in people who play sports. About 40 percent of people who are over 65 also have them, and as many as half a million people suffer from them each year.

The Torn Meniscus Symptoms

When someone gets a tear in the meniscus, they will probably sense a popping sound from their knee. Immediately afterward, they will feel pain. It may be on the inside or on the outside of the knee. Swelling of the knee will be next, but it may take more than one day for it to be noticeable. People involved in sports may even be able to play for a couple of days afterwards. Once the swelling starts, the pain will likely be very noticeable, and it will often be stiff at times.

Sometimes, one of the symptoms of torn meniscus is that the knee will lock. It is also possible that the leg cannot be straightened, but it will hurt much more when the knee is twisted, or when squatting. There may also be a strong feeling that the knee is not going to support you, or that it is giving way.

In some situations, the individual with a meniscus that is torn will be able to carry on with most activities. Others will not be able to carry on with their normal activities because they use their knees. Just going upstairs, or even walking, can cause strong pain. Participating in athletics is likely to cause the pain to start again, and the swelling too.

In many cases, the pain and swelling may subside in four to six weeks. However, if the knee cannot be straightened, a doctor should be contacted. You also want to contact a doctor if the knee locks and it cannot be bent.

The Causes Behind the Tearing of the Meniscus

There are several activities that could easily be one of the causes of torn meniscus. The primary activity is sports, especially if actions such as making quick stops or sudden turns is involved, such as in basketball or football. There is also an increase in the number of children getting them because of the many children’s sports programs now available.

People who make sudden turns or deep squats, or who do the heavy lifting are also subject to them. After the age of 30, the meniscus usually begins to grow weaker and thinner, which is apt to be a common cause of tears in people of that age. At an older age, even simple movements may result in a tear, such as just getting up out of a chair.

Other torn meniscus causes include osteoarthritis. This common disease will weaken and further thin out the meniscus. If the joint did not already have osteoarthritis, it will likely develop if a piece of the meniscus moves around in the knee causing more damage.

Diagnosing a Meniscus Tear

Once a tear of the meniscus is expected, the doctor will first ask you what you were doing when it happened. The doctor will also likely move your knee and leg into different positions to help determine where the problem is and what might be causing it. Tenderness will also be watched for along the meniscus line.

Some tests can be expected, including x-rays, to ensure that there are not any broken bones. It is also possible that an MRI might be needed, which will enable better viewing of the cartilage and of any damage to it. An x-ray will not reveal cartilage. The tests are also needed because some other injuries can also cause similar symptoms.

Although an MRI is helpful, it is still limited in its ability to diagnose a tear in the meniscus. Some situations in the knee can look like a meniscus tear, which is why an MRI is considered to be only accurate in 77 percent of the cases. It may, however, be able to eliminate the need for arthroscopy in a few cases.

An ultrasound of your knee may also be used on your knee. This device will let the doctor view your knee as it moves, and it will also help detect any loose flaps of cartilage.

Another instrument that might be necessary is an arthroscope. This device is a cable that is inserted into the knee joint. It contains a camera and light that enables the doctor to actually see what is happening in the problem area. At the same time, the doctor can also perform surgery through the cable, or another incision may need to be made.

Progression of the Injury

Some people find that a meniscus with a small tear is not that bothersome. Others find it difficult to carry on with their normal activities. The difference may be the location and type of tear.

If the individual takes it easy, it is likely that the pain and swelling will decrease. This may allow for many normal activities to continue. Problems are apt to be seen when bending, or when going up or down stairs.

When the knee is damaged, extra fluid will tend to accumulate around the knee. Keeping it bent will enable more fluid into the joint, causing more swelling.

Self-Healing of the Damaged Meniscus

The meniscus has a blood supply that goes to about one-third of the outermost edges. This can enable faster healing where the blood supply is most abundant. In the past, the inner part of the meniscus has been thought of as not capable of healing itself, but this has proven false in more recent research. When a meniscus is repaired with sutures, even where there is not an abundant blood supply, it will heal.

In the past, many doctors, believing that part of it would not heal simply cut away the meniscus that was torn. Unfortunately, this means an increased likeness of getting osteoarthritis in that joint.

How to Treat Torn Meniscus Without Surgery

It is possible to treat some tears in the meniscus yourself. The treatment of torn meniscus involves several steps, but it will help provide some relief to your painful and swollen knee.

Rest Your Knee – You will want to stay off of your knee as much as possible. You should not use it for any activity other than just walking. You will also probably find it helpful to use crutches to avoid putting much weight on it.

Put Ice on Your Knee – Ice will enable you to reduce any swelling you are experiencing, but do not keep ice on it for more than 20 minutes at a time. Use ice one time about every two to three hours, for a couple of days.

Put a Compression Bandage on Your Knee – Swelling can also be limited by using a compression type bandage on it.

Keep Your Knee Elevated – When not walking, it will help to keep your knee elevated with a pillow under it.

Take NSAIDs for Pain and Inflammation – Some over-the-counter medications will help to reduce the inflammation. These include medicines such as Motrin and Aleve. Use sparingly.

After the swelling has gone down, you will want to perform some basic stretching exercises. This will help strengthen the knee once it starts getting better. In some cases, you may need to see a physical therapist.

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In this instance, an athlete was originally diagnosed with minor quadriceps muscle strain and was treated for four weeks, with unsatisfactory results. When he came to our clinic, the muscle was not healing, and the patients’ muscle tissue had already begun to atrophy.

Upon examination using MSUS, we discovered that he had a full muscle thickness tear that had been overlooked by his previous provider. To mitigate damage and promote healing, surgery should have been performed immediately after the injury occurred. Because of misdiagnosis and inappropriate treatment, the patient now has permanent damage that cannot be corrected.

The most important advantage of Ultrasound over MRI imaging is its ability to zero in on the symptomatic region and obtain imaging, with active participation and feedback from the patient. Using dynamic MSUS, we can see what happens when patients contract their muscles, something that cannot be done with MRI. From a diagnostic perspective, this interaction is invaluable.

Dynamic ultrasonography examination demonstrating
the full thickness tear and already occurring muscle atrophy
due to misdiagnosis and not referring the patient
to proper diagnostic workup

Demonstration of how very small muscle defect is made and revealed
to be a complete tear with muscle contraction
under diagnostic sonography (not possible with MRI)


Complete tear of rectus femoris
with large hematoma (blood)


Separation of muscle ends due to tear elicited
on dynamic sonography examination

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