Meniscectomy Vs Meniscus Repair

Meniscectomy vs Meniscus Repair

Understanding Meniscus Injuries

As an orthopedic surgeon, the treatment of knee injuries forms a significant part of my practice. Among these, meniscus injuries are particularly common. The meniscus is a piece of cartilage in your knee that cushions and stabilizes the joint, protecting the bones from wear and tear. However, this important structure is vulnerable to tears, especially in athletes and individuals leading active lifestyles.

In discussions about meniscus injuries, two terms frequently arise: meniscectomy and meniscus repair. These terms refer to two different surgical procedures used to treat a torn meniscus, and the choice between them depends on several factors, including the nature and location of the tear, the patient's age, activity level, and general health.

Meniscectomy vs Meniscus Repair


In a meniscectomy, the damaged or torn part of the meniscus is removed. This procedure can be total, where the entire meniscus is removed, or partial, which only removes the damaged section. A partial meniscectomy is often preferred because it preserves more of the natural structure and function of the knee.

Meniscus Repair

Meniscus repair, on the other hand, aims to fix the tear without removing a significant portion of the meniscus. This procedure is generally recommended for younger patients and those with specific types of tears that have a better chance of healing. Meniscus repair is believed to maintain knee stability and reduce the risk of future arthritis.

Factors Influencing Treatment Choice

Choosing between meniscectomy and meniscus repair depends on a variety of factors. The type of tear and its location -- whether it's in the blood-rich "red zone," which has a better capacity for healing, or the "white zone," which lacks a good blood supply -- significantly influences the decision. Additionally, the patient's lifestyle, age, and whether they have concurrent knee issues, such as arthritis, also play critical roles.

In my practice, I've encountered patients who have benefitted tremendously from both procedures, each with its own set of advantages and challenges. For example, one of my patients, a high school athlete, sustained a meniscus tear during a soccer game. Given her young age and the nature of her tear, we opted for a meniscus repair, allowing her to resume her active lifestyle post-recovery. On the other hand, an elderly patient with a chronic tear and early signs of arthritis underwent a partial meniscectomy, which alleviated his symptoms and improved his quality of life.

Considering the Pros and Cons

  • Meniscectomy Pros: Quicker recovery time and often immediate relief from symptoms.
  • Meniscectomy Cons: Increased risk of developing knee arthritis in the future due to the removal of cartilage.
  • Meniscus Repair Pros: Preserves knee structure and function, potentially reducing the risk of future arthritis.
  • Meniscus Repair Cons: Longer recovery period and the necessity of a more cautious rehabilitation process.

Rehabilitation and Recovery

Regardless of the chosen procedure, rehabilitation plays a crucial role in recovery. A well-designed physical therapy program helps patients regain strength and mobility in the knee. In my practice, I emphasize the importance of following the rehab protocol closely, as it significantly impacts the surgery's overall success.

For instance, after meniscus repair surgery, patients may need to limit weight-bearing activities for a few weeks and use crutches, allowing the repaired meniscus to heal properly. Conversely, those who undergo a meniscectomy may start physical therapy sooner but still need to gradually return to their usual activities, avoiding actions that could stress the knee too soon.

Patient Outcomes and Experiences

Throughout my years of practice, I've witnessed firsthand how meniscectomy and meniscus repair can markedly improve patients' lives. One particular patient, an avid runner who underwent a meniscus repair, shared how the surgery and subsequent rehab allowed him to return to marathons, something he thought he'd have to give up.

Another patient, a senior who had a partial meniscectomy, expressed relief at being able to walk and perform daily activities with significantly less pain. These stories underscore the profound impact these treatments can have, enabling individuals to maintain or return to the lifestyles they love.


In conclusion, when faced with the decision of meniscectomy vs meniscus repair, it's essential to consider various factors, including the specifics of the tear, the patient's age, lifestyle, and overall health. In my practice, I prioritize a thorough evaluation and discussion with my patients, ensuring we select the treatment path that aligns best with their goals and needs.

The advancements in knee surgery techniques and rehabilitation means that many patients can look forward to resuming their active routines post-surgery. Whether through meniscectomy or meniscus repair, my goal is always to help my patients achieve the best possible outcomes, guided by my expertise and their individual circumstances and aspirations.

Rehabilitation and Recovery

Why remove meniscus instead of repair?

In our practice, the decision to remove a piece of the meniscus rather than repair it often hinges on several factors. One key consideration is the nature and location of the tear. Meniscectomy, particularly partial meniscectomy, might be preferred if the tear is in an area with poor blood supply--the so-called "white zone"--making natural healing less likely. Additionally, for patients who are older or those whose lifestyle or general health may not align with the longer recovery time associated with a repair, removal might offer a better balance between recovery and return to function.

It's worth underscoring that while removing a section of the meniscus can alleviate symptoms like pain and instability more rapidly, it's not a decision we make lightly. The meniscus plays a crucial role in protecting the knee joint, and its partial or total removal can lead to long-term implications, such as an increased risk of arthritis. Each case is thoroughly evaluated to ensure that the treatment path chosen aligns with the patient's long-term well-being and lifestyle goals.

What are the downsides of meniscectomy?

The most notable downside of meniscectomy is the increased risk of developing osteoarthritis in the knee. When we remove part of the meniscus, we're essentially removing some of the knee's natural shock absorption and stability, which can lead to more wear and tear on the joint over time. Additionally, patients who undergo a meniscectomy may experience a quicker return to activities in the short term, but the long-term implications on knee health can be significant. It's a balance between immediate relief and future well-being, and part of our role is to help patients navigate this decision carefully, considering all the factors at play.

What is the difference between arthroscopic meniscus repair and partial meniscectomy?

Arthroscopic meniscus repair and partial meniscectomy are both minimally invasive procedures performed through small incisions with the aid of an arthroscope, but their goals and outcomes differ significantly. In a meniscus repair, we aim to suture the torn pieces of the meniscus back together, preserving as much of the natural tissue as possible. This approach is ideal for tears that are likely to heal well, particularly those in the blood-rich "red zone" of the meniscus.

On the other hand, a partial meniscectomy involves removing the torn section of the meniscus. This procedure is typically reserved for tears that are not suitable for repair, either because of their location, type, or in patients where the recovery period for a repair would not be ideal. While both procedures have high success rates in the appropriate contexts, the decision to pursue one over the other weighs heavily on preserving knee function and health long-term.

What are the three types of meniscus surgery?

In orthopedic care, we categorize meniscus surgeries into three main types: meniscus repair, partial meniscectomy, and total meniscectomy. Meniscus repair involves stitching the torn pieces of the meniscus together, aiming for a natural healing process. Partial meniscectomy, the most common form, involves removing the damaged section of the meniscus while keeping as much of the healthy tissue as possible. Total meniscectomy, which is less common due to its association with a higher risk of arthritis, involves removing the entire meniscus. The choice among these depends deeply on the tear's characteristics and the patient's overall knee health, activity level, and long-term goals.

How significant is rehabilitation following meniscus surgery?

Rehabilitation is absolutely crucial after meniscus surgery, regardless of whether a patient undergoes a meniscectomy or repair. The rehab process is tailored to the type of surgery performed and the individual patient's condition. For instance, following a meniscus repair, the rehabilitation program usually focuses on protecting the repair in the early stages, gradually increasing weight-bearing and introducing exercises that restore range of motion, strength, and eventually, full function.

On the flip side, after a meniscectomy, patients might be able to return to weight-bearing activities sooner, but the rehab still plays a critical role in ensuring a safe return to daily activities and preventing potential complications. Remember, the success of the surgery isn't just about what happens in the operating room; the dedication to a structured rehabilitation program can significantly influence the long-term outcome and success of the procedure.

Does age impact the outcome of meniscus surgery?

Age certainly plays a role in the decision-making process and potential outcomes of meniscus surgery. Younger patients, especially those who are active, often benefit more from meniscus repair, given the procedure's focus on preservation and the potential for healing. The younger tissue tends to have a better capacity for recovery, and maintaining as much of the original meniscus as possible can help prevent long-term complications like arthritis.

For older patients, the decision might lean towards a meniscectomy, especially if the tear accompanies degenerative changes in the knee. In these cases, the primary goal is often to relieve symptoms and improve quality of life, with a focus on a recovery that accommodates the patient's lifestyle. However, it's important to stress that decisions are not made solely based on age; each patient's overall health, activity level, and specific circumstances are thoroughly considered to ensure the best possible outcome.

I hope these insights provided a deeper understanding of meniscus surgery options and considerations. If you have further questions or concerns, I encourage you to reach out. Together, we can navigate the best path to your recovery and return to activity.


Walter A Thomas, MD
Meniscectomy Vs Meniscus Repair
258 Lombard St STE 200
Thousand Oaks CA 91360 US

View Larger Map

We welcome your comments!