Meniscal Tears

The meniscus is a C-shaped wedge of cartilage that sits in the knee between the femur (thigh bone) and tibia (shin bone), and acts to provide stability and distribute load evenly through the knee. There are two menisci, the medial meniscus is on the inner side and the lateral meniscus on the outer side of the knee.


In younger patients, menisci usually only tear following an injury to the knee. Typically, this is a twisting injury, often with the foot planted while the knee is bent.

As we age, the menisci begin to degenerate and are more likely to tear with minor trauma. Sometimes, tears can occur with innocuous activities such as kneeling or squatting or without recollection of any specific event. Degenerate tears are common in the presence of knee osteoarthritis.

Womans squats
Seniors racing


With an acute injury, you may experience a sudden sharp pain sometimes associated with a ‘pop’ felt or heard inside the knee. This is often followed by moderate swelling which usually appears a number of hours after the injury.

Other symptoms include intermittent pain, swelling, clicking or catching sensations, giving way and locking.


The history and examination findings are usually supported with a MRI scan. An x-ray may also be requested to assess degenerative changes within the joint.


This depends on many factors such as the type, size, location of the tear, as well as your presenting symptoms.

A trial of non-operative treatment including managing pain, swelling and modifying activities may be indicated for many tears, especially degenerative ones. If you have advanced osteoarthritic changes, arthroscopic meniscal surgery may not be appropriate.

Meniscal surgery may be recommended if you fail non-operative treatment or if you have a recent injury that is deemed repairable, especially if you have a concurrent ACL injury. Should your knee be acutely locked by a large unstable tear you may require urgent arthroscopic surgery.

Meniscal tissue has limited blood supply and therefore tears have limited healing potential. When possible, we will try to preserve your meniscus by repairing it. Failing this, a partial meniscectomy may be indicated to trim the tear.

Meniscal Root Tear

The menisci have strong attachments especially at their very posterior aspects. These are the root attachments and are important as they hold the meniscus in place and prevent meniscal extrusion. If you are diagnosed with a root tear, in the absence of significant degeneration in the knee, surgical root repair may be recommended.


The following download will tell you more about meniscal tears and treatment options.

Patient leaflet meniscal tears

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