Complex degenerative meniscus tears are quite common.  The majority of us will develop them in our lifetime.  The research has been clear over the years.  The vast majority of these complex tears do not require surgery. This podcast will explore the function of the meniscus and the consequences of surgery on complex tears of the meniscus.  

The meniscus has a very important function in our knee.  We have a medial and a lateral meniscus.  Both of the menisci play a role in how weight-bearing forces are distributed across the knee.  When you step on your knee you put 5-7 times your body weight across your knee as a mechanical load.  Any changes to the meniscus will increase the load that the articular cartilage or cushioning in your knee is subject to.  That increase in stress will cause the articular cartilage to degenerate and osteoarthritis will occur.  

Function of meniscusThe picture above shows how your weight is distributed across the knee when it is functioning well.  If the meniscus has been removed, even if a small piece has been removed, then the stress on the articular cartilage increase 3-fold.  That can cause osteoarthritis, which may go on to require a knee replacement. 

Your risk of developing osteoarthritis increases when a meniscus tear occurs.  That risk is likely dependent on the type of meniscus tear you have.  Degenerative or complex meniscus tears are associated with a lower risk of arthritis development than root or buckets handle tears.  

In this podcast, I discuss the what a meniscus is, why it is important, and the result of a study on your risk for requiring a knee replacement if you have a part of your meniscus removed.  

Meniscus surgery does not guarantee that you will require a knee replacement.  However, as we will discuss it certainly increases the risk of arthritis development significantly. In addition, the discussion in this podcast pertains to a complex or degenerative meniscus tear.  Radial or root tears, as well as bucket handle tears are looked at differently.  Root and Bucket Handle mensicus tears may benefit from a repair where the meniscus tear is actually sutured back together.  In those situations, a meniscus repair may serve you better than a non-surgically managed root or bucket handle tear.   

The vast majority of tears in adults are complex degenerative meniscus tears.  So this podcast will pertain to most tears that occur after we reach the age of 40.  

Click on the orange circle in the picture to listen to the audio.

Disclaimer:  this information is for your education and should not be considered medical advice regarding diagnosis or treatment recommendations. Some links on this page may be affiliate links. Read the full disclaimer.

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About the author:

Howard J. Luks, MD

Howard J. Luks, MD

A Board Certified Orthopedic Surgeon in Hawthorne, NY. Dr. Howard Luks specializes in the treatment of the shoulder, knee, elbow, and ankle. He has a very "social" patient centric approach and believes that the more you understand about your issue, the more informed your decisions will be. Ultimately your treatments and his recommendations will be based on proper communications, proper understanding, and shared decision-making principles – all geared to improve your quality of life.

3 comments on “Meniscus surgery increases your risk of requiring a knee replacement: Podcast

  • Thanks for the great information. I’m a 50 year old marathon runner who loves to run. In March I had a MRI and the results were: tear posterior horn medial meniscus, bony edema and tendinosis at semimembranosus attachment and in medial head gastrocnumius tendon. I don’t understand most of that other than the meniscus (The doctor didn’t go over any of it with me). I’ve been doing a lot of bike riding and pool running. About every 2 or 3 days, I try to run and I can usually get 2 miles into it before I feel a dull pain. Then the dull pain comes later in the day. I’ve read your article about running with a meniscus tear and how it’s probably not making it worse. Do you think I’m better off just doing the bike until the pain goes away or should I continue to try the run every few days. It’s getting very frustrating and I just don’t want to make it worse. And I can’t find an orthopedic doctor who is a runner ( I wish I was closer to NY). – Thanks

    • Well… the risk of developing osteoarthritis (OA) does increase when you tear the meniscus itself. Having surgery to remove the torn piece does not alter that risk. It may in fact increase the risk of OA. If you have bone edema then the bone is upset due to the increase in pressure or force it is subject to because of the tear. Running is often well tolerated in knees with these degenerative tears in the posterior horn. But it may take up to one year for the knee joint to settle down. Since I have not seen your images, Xrays, etc I cannot say what the best course of action is. In this format I cannot recommend treatments or activities either… advice is a tricky thing on the internet.

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