General Question

margeryred's avatar

Torn Meniscus, can surgery cause future problems?

Asked by margeryred (289 points ) June 24th, 2008

I just had surgery on my right meniscus (left will be later this summer) and I am wondering if having your cartridge/meniscus repaired (or primitively described as completely reshaped) will prematurely break it down and cause future problems with the knee (like rapid degeneration). (Doctor went in for a routine tear repair but found more extensive damage and reshaped the whole thing-no weight on it for 10 days so far)

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29 Answers

marinelife's avatar

I tore mine in the 70s. After surgery, I have some lack of flex in the knee to this day (scar tissue formed when I had complications from the spinal anesthetic and did not move soon enough and far enough). Since it is bone on bone, I can feel it after walking too much or too far. Every once in a while my kneecap can “catch” the wrong way and that hurts.

For the most part, though, my knee is functional and pain-free.

syz's avatar

I don’t think that you have to worry about the surgery itself causing additional damage to the meniscus. Be aware, however, that you can have additional/ongoing damage to the cartilage with normal wear. (I’ve had mine trimmed three times now.)

Wine3213's avatar

My Dad had 2 arthroscopic knee operations, and he has limited mobility in his knee now. But not to the point it stops him from doing anything. He still runs, and plays tennis all the time, but on occasion it does still bother him. As syz said, the surgery itself won’t do any damage, buy further wear and tear can.

mzgator's avatar

I had surgery in February 2005. They trimmed my meniscus. I would love to say that my knee is just as good as it was before, but I would be lying. It is not horrible, but does cause me problems. My knee is not very stable. It feels weak when it has been overused to the point of my knee collapsing in. I have not let it stop me from many things. I have hiked all over, sometimes a lot slower. I do have pain when it is overused. I tore it skiing in Tahoe. I wish the surgery had completely repaired it, but it has not.

scamp's avatar

Good luck to you. I had similar surgery in January, and I am not right yet. I had to find a different job because I still can’t fully use my knee. I am not saying this to scare you. I just wonder if it has done me any good to have the surgery because I still haven’t seen improvement over what it was before surgery. I had two tears, and like you, he said I had much more damage than he originally thought, so he did a couple chondroplasties too. I doubt I will let him do the other knee. I have to say I regret having the surgery, but maybe I am not being patient enough.

marinelife's avatar

@scamp Surgery is mandatory with a meniscus tear. Once it is torn, there is no healing on its own. Hang in there. Recovery is slow, but I think you will feel differently in a few more months. Sorry about the job change. I remember a co-worker having to pick me up in her van. She would open the back, and I would slide in on my butt on the floor where I would ride for the duration, because my knee would not bend!

I hope it gets better soon.

scamp's avatar

Thanks Marina. I was told that somtimes tears can repair themselves if they are minor enough. Mine were pretty severe, so I opted for the surgery. I hope you’re right because it’s been 6 months already, and pure hell. I will not do this again. The laying around and inactivity has made my back much weaker, and caused me much more pain than I can deal with. If the other knee gets worse, I’ll use a wheelchair rather than go through all of this again. But I want everyone to know that this is my personal esperience. Don’t let my whining influence you own decisions on whether or not to have surgery. Everyone is different. I just happened to be one of the unlucky ones.

marinelife's avatar

Your story makes me feel lucky, scamp. The guy who did mine was a former Mayo Clinic orthopedist, and I was supposed to be thrilled. I had not know to check and could have had a butcher instead for all the will I exerted. I do know it was more than a year before I felt my knee even approached its former functionality.

scamp's avatar

Your telling me it took a full year to feel normal gives me hope Marina. I thought I did my homework on this surgeon. He is the head of the ortho department at the hospital, and he has been around since the late 60’s. I thought he would be good because he has so much experience, but people tell me now he is too “old school”. I’ll try to be more patient now that you told me yours took a long time too. Thanks again!

margeryred's avatar

So after meeting with the doctor he said I had a medial tear that he repaired (little blue circular buttons) and the lateral was torn and shaped weird so he reshaped it. I have not be allowed to walk for 4 weeks (and it is KILLING me!!!)

It hurts really bad all the time. I try to bend it often and have just begun therapy. I have 11 days to go till my next doc’s apt to see if I can begin to walk on it.

This totally sucks. What hurts the most is the left knee is also injured so I have to use crutches and put my entire body weight on the other hurt leg (left)

I’ll keep in touch with this one, so far… this is not good!

marinelife's avatar

Ouch. Sounds awful. Four weeks without walking will seem like forever. Try to be patient—even with your own impatience and frustration, which is natural. Please take care.

scamp's avatar

@margeryred You got therapy? I asked several times why I wasn’t getting it, and the surgeon said there is no therapy for bone. hmmm, I wonder if this has anything to do with why it it taking so long to heal? I was on crutches for over 4 months! But during the surgery he injected me with something so the pain wasn’t as bad as yours. I think it was some kind of steroid. It only hurt when I started putting weight on it. He told me I could put as much wieght on it as I could stand after the second week. I hope you do better than I did.

margeryred's avatar

Scamp… Geez… I would die if I was on these things for 4 months. I think I just broke my toe yesterday by slamming it into the crutch by the refrigerator. It’s swollen and kills…

Anyway, I just started therapy late last week and after reading your post I feel very well taken care of and lucky. My other doctor… not the surgeon, is putting me through a good regimen of exercises and therapy in the office. It is painful but he explained the benefits of each exercise and exactly what each one would do to that area… :)

scamp's avatar

If you don’t mind, I would love to hear what they are having you do. I may want to try doing some of the exercises myself to try and strengthen my knees/legs. I would love to be able to walk unassisted for a change. I am sick of this cane!! If you don’t feel comfortable posting it here, feel free to send it via private comment.

I really hope your poor toe isn’t broken! You poor thing. You are dealing with more than enough without that!!

marinelife's avatar

@scamp I also had physical therapy. Should you get a second opinion? (I am not sure you should just start exercising on your own though.)

scamp's avatar

I probably will get second opinion soon. At this point, I can’t see how gentle exercise could hurt, if I start slow. I have to do something or I won’t be able to walk at all. My legs continue to get weaker from not doing anything. I don’t want them to atrophy.

marinelife's avatar

@scamp At least check with your doctor. Please. You don’t want to damage something further. That might not be fixable.

scamp's avatar

When I asked him about therapy, he said I should walk more, do leg lifts, and ride an exercise bike. So I think I can do some light stuff without causing any further injury. I actually cancelled my appointment with him for this morning.

At this point, I am only forking over $50.00 (copay) for nothing. On the last visit, he began hinting at a total knee replacement. Yeah right!! Like I would let him do more on me!! Thanks for the concern Marina. I wouldn’t do anything to heavy duty to make this nightmare even worse.

marinelife's avatar

@scamp This is awful. It is so time for that second opinion! I wish you the best. Let us hear how the exercising works.

scamp's avatar

Thanks! I’m not going to do anything for little while. I want to be able to visit my new Grandson when he is born next month.

marinelife's avatar

@scamp And you can make a lap which is all that matters. I hope all goes smoothly, and you are cuddling the bundle of love soon.

mzgator's avatar

my orthopedic surgeon did the same thing to me. No therapy… Just leg lifts and excercise bike at home. All of the other people I know who had surgery had physical therapy after a few days post op. I thought surgery would heal my knee. It does not lock up anymore. I am in pain when I overuse it and in winter. It is a lot weaker than before. Sometimes it feels like it will just give out. My doctor told me eventually it would probably need to be replaced. I would not allow him to do it, and I would avoid it if possible.

scamp's avatar

@mzgator I’m sorry to hear that. I think I will soon know exactly how you feel.

margeryred's avatar

@scamp:

He has me strengthing my quad where it meets my knee and my calf muscle where it reaches my knee on the back side.

Leg lifts (straight leg lift up and down about 10 inches off couch/matress/floor-at the hip. sets of 10 or till u feel the burn in hip. I do about 15–20 to get that burn. that actaully works on the quad where ur muscles bind to ur knee)

For the calf: raise leg a couple inches off bed/floor/couch while sitting or laying and flex ur foot- toes pulling toward ur knee for a 5 count then relax. This will strengthen the criss cross calf muscles on the back & help strengthen the knee to walk better.

I do agree with asking ur doc for approval…but I know that these exercises won’t hurt u if u had meniscus surgery. My doc wants me to do them 5 times a day, bot legs, several reps.

He also wants me cycling on his stationrary bike in the office, next week.
KEEP IN MIND NO PAIN, JUST GOOD STRETCHING SHOULD BE FELT… :)

All of this I upon electrostatis therapy, ultra sound & massage.

My doctor is a sports medicine doctor and realizes that I will need more than the average performance level out of my knees than the average human, due to my career. :)

Dr. Anthony Wyrwas- excellent & very compitent.

scamp's avatar

@margeryred Thanks so much! My surgeon did say to do leg lifts after surgery, so I doubt what you are doing will hurt me, but I will ask first.

Beckymaynard's avatar

I tore my right medial meniscus in December just walking. The cause was minor osteoarthritis which we knew was present, grinding away at the meniscus. Arthroscopic surgery in February cleaned it up as well as removal of old scar tissue. However, new scar tissue formed too quickly and heavily and bound up the knee with only 85 degrees of passive range of motion. Surgical manipulation in May with faster physical therapy got it to 104 degrees range of motion but now stuck again. PT says no creep available and pushing just creates more inflammation. Cortisone injections help sometimes in order to get more range but that quickly disappears. Before the tear, I had 140 degrees in both knees. I wished now I had insisted on rooster comb injections back in November and perhaps the meniscus would have been spared. If your body just naturally makes a ton of scar tissue like mine, arthroscopic surgery on any joints is a risk. Would appreciate some imput from PTs who have worked with patients like me with what works and what does not.

scamp's avatar

I considered the ‘rooster comb” injections you speak of. but I am allergic to egg whites, so it wasn’t an option for me. I beleive it’s called synvisc, right? Cortisone injections only helped me for a few days. But I am slowly improving, so I guess I will just have to be patient.

JK_in_AK's avatar

I tore my meniscus almost a year ago and had surgery 6 weeks ago. I still have some pain, but am able to walk my dog 2 miles everyday (I started walking about 2 weeks ago). It feels better then before surgery though so I am not complaining. Reading all the responses here makes me think I may be doing pretty well. I will be starting those excercises Margered posted as well. I do occasionaly ice and take a mild pain reliever (tylenol or advil).

kidwell55's avatar

i fell hurt my left kneehad an xray they said there was nothing wrong with it so as the days went by it was getting worse it got to where i couldnt walk on it the viens was swollen and hurt went to another doctor he did an mri and told me the meniscus was broken he done surgery the pain hasnt let up much i take naproxin all the time

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