A meniscus is a thick, rubbery piece of cartilage located in the knee and separating the thigh bone (femur) and the shinbone (tibia). Each knee has two menisci, one behind and on each side of the triangular-shaped patella (knee cap). The menisci act as shock absorbers, stabilizing the joint and protecting the bones and the joint from damage when the joint is used or weight is placed on the leg.
Meniscal tears usually are caused by twisting or pivoting motions that place extreme or uneven pressure or force on the joint. They're more common among athletes and among older men and women.
Meniscal tears are associated with pain and swelling in and around the knee, often accompanied by joint instability and tenderness. “Locking” or “catching” sensations in the joint are also common.
Sometimes, a damaged meniscus can be repaired or it may heal on its own. When the meniscus is badly damaged, it may need to be replaced using a meniscal graft taken from a human donor. Donor grafts are also called allografts and they're subjected to rigorous testing to ensure they're safe and appropriate for transplant procedures. Often, the procedure can be performed using a minimally-invasive arthroscopic technique that relies on small incisions and a very tiny camera to see inside the joint and perform the surgery, but sometimes, a larger incision will be needed to perform the transplant. During the procedure, the old meniscus will be removed and the transplant will be prepared for an ideal fit, then sutured into place.
Generally, meniscal transplant may be a good option for:
For patients who don't meet these criteria, knee replacement may be a better option.
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