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What is meniscus preservation and why does it matter?

meniscus as a shock absorber

The menisci are now recognized to be integral parts of the knee and not the vestigial and dispensable remains of evolution as once thought.

Because the meniscus was thus thought to be trivial structures, tears in the meniscus often meant that the surgeon simply cut away the torn part or removed the meniscus altogether. But we now know that the meniscus is a very significant structure within the knee.

The meniscus or semilunar cartilage is a paired structure composed of cartilaginous tissue. It is situated in the knee between the thigh and leg bones. The main function of the menisci (plural) is one of load transmission. The menisci also play a role in knee stability. They deepen the socket of the tibia to better conform to the ovoid shape of the femoral condyles; they act act as secondary stabilisers in the anterior cruciate ligament-deficient knee. The meniscus also has a role in joint lubrication, which significantly reduces the coefficient of friction in the knee.

More than 50% of the body’s weight is transmitted through the menisci. Loss of all or part of a meniscus increases point loading and results in premature wear of the knee due to altered mechanical forces.​ Meniscal tears are a common and important source of knee dysfunction, particularly in younger, active individuals who place significant demand on their knees.

Meniscus Preservation

Over the last two decades, there has been an improvement in surgical techniques to assess and treat meniscal pathology and have led to a shift towards preservation of the menisci.

Meniscal preservation includes leaving small or partial tears, performing partial menisectomy where appropriate, and meniscus repair techniques. It is crucial to preserve as much functional meniscus as possible. Repair of a torn meniscus restore the loading profiles of the joint and the ability of the meniscus to absorb hoop stress and eliminate joint space narrowing, possibly decreasing the risk of degenerative disease.​

Prof Raju Vaishya

Dr (Prof) Raju Vaishya represented India in a recently held cadaveric workshop at National University Hospital, Singapore. In this unique workshop, various techniques of meniscal repair were discussed and practiced.

Prof Raju Vaishya

MBBS, MS, MCh (Liverpool), FRCS (Lon) Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals,
New Delhi, INDIA
email: [email protected]

What is hoop stress?

The arrangement of the fibres in the meniscus divert vertical compressive forces into circumferential stresses - like the hoop of a barrel.

What is joint space narrowing?​

The meniscus fills the space between the two long bones. When it is damaged or absent this space narrows, and the delicate joint cartilage covering the ends of the bones can become damaged.

What is partial meniscectomy?​

This is removal of damaged meniscus tissue, but attempting to retain as much as possible of the important outer part.

What is meniscal repair?​

Meniscal repair preserves torn meniscus by opposing it to the healthy remnant with stitches or other devices until a blood supply is re-established.

Kevin R Stone MD says April 12, 2016

Nice Introduction! Meniscus preservation now also includes meniscus reconstruction with a collagen meniscus implant (CMI) to augment difficult repairs and to replace missing segments and meniscus replacement with a donor allograft meniscus. Each of these techniques have been highly successful in our hands.

    Raju Vaishya says April 13, 2016

    I understand that you have a lot of experience in these two options. How well have your patients done who have had scaffolds and what are your indications of doing these meniscal implants?

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