A bucket handle meniscus tear is a unique type of meniscus tear. Bucket handle meniscus tears are more common in younger athletes. They can occur in older adult athletes too, but most bucket handle meniscus tears occur in people under 35 years old.
The meniscus is a c-shaped disc. We have two menisci within our knee, the medial and the lateral meniscus. The meniscus functions as a shock absorber. The meniscus serves a very important function by cushioning our knee when we walk, run or play. If the meniscus tears then that support is lost and osteoarthritis can occur.
What Is A Bucket Handle Meniscus Tear?
A bucket handle meniscus tear is a unique type of tear. It represents a complete tear of the meniscus support or the ligament that holds the meniscus in place. That allows the meniscus to flop over like the handle on a bucket. When the meniscus flips over it becomes stuck in the middle of the knee joint.If you lose the ability to fully straighten the knee then you have a “locked knee”.
What Symptoms Does A Bucket Handle Meniscus Tear Cause?
Bucket handle tears of the meniscus tend to cause significant swelling and pain when they initially tear. After the initial swelling goes down you will usually find that you can not straighten the knee. This is what we refer to as a locked knee. That’s because the torn bucket handle meniscus tear is stuck in the center of the knee and is physically blocking the knee from straightening.
Many patients with a bucket handle meniscus tear will also complain that the knee feels loose or unstable. They will notice a lot of clunking or catching too.
How Is A Bucket Handle Meniscus Tear Treated?
Most patients with a bucket handle meniscus tear will need to be treated surgically via an arthroscopy. During an arthroscopy, we put a small camera in the knee to see the meniscus tear. Again, the bucket handle tears are usually flipped over and stuck in the middle of the knee. The first thing we do is to put the tear back into its normal position. Then we look at the tear and see if it is repairable. Most bucket handle tears are able to be repaired by placing sutures or stitches in it. We want to try and repair these, because we do not repair it and we trim a bucket handle tear out, then you will lose a lot of your meniscus and you will be at high risk for developing osteoarthritis.
Recovery After A Bucket Handle Meniscus Tear
After surgery, you will be on crutches for a while to protect the stitches and allow the meniscus to heal. After therapy and waiting enough time for the meniscus to heal, many athletes can enjoy a full return to activities after repair of a bucket handle tear. Return to sports after the repair of a bucket handle meniscus tear can take 3-6 months or more.
Dr. Howard Luks, MD – Hawthorne, NY
Fax: (914) 789-2743