Meniscal Transplant

The meniscus is a C-shaped piece of tough cartilage located in the knee, that acts as a shock absorber between the shinbone and the thighbone. There are two minisci within each knee. The meniscus on the inside part of the knee is known as the medial meniscus and the meniscus located on the outside of the knee is referred to as the lateral meniscus. A meniscus tear may be the result of an activity that forcefully twists or rotates the knee.

When a meniscus is torn due to injury or overuse, it can often be repaired with surgery that involves suturing the damaged ends together. However, in cases where the meniscus is extremely damaged and cannot be repaired, it may need to be removed completely and replaced with donor cartilage. This type of transplant can provide cushioning to the joint and prevent the bones and other structures from rubbing together, alleviating considerable pain.

Candidates for a Meniscal Transplant

A meniscal transplant is typically much more successful in a younger, active individual who has damage due to an injury. Candidates for a meniscal transplant may include individuals who:

  • Have persistent pain
  • Have a meniscus tear that cannot be repaired
  • Have stable knees with normal alignment
  • Do not have arthritis
  • Are physically fit and not obese

Older patients, especially those with osteoarthritis, are often better candidates for a joint replacement surgery instead of a meniscal transplant.

The Meniscal Transplant Procedure

This meniscal transplant is commonly performed as an outpatient procedure. The meniscal transplant procedure is performed arthroscopically, with tiny surgical instruments inserted through very small incisions. The arthoscope is inserted into the knee through a small incision. The meniscus and any remaining tissue are removed from the knee. The donor meniscus is attached to the shinbone and sutured in place. The incision is then closed and bandages are placed over the wound.

Risks of a Meniscal Transplant

While meniscal transplant surgery is considered a safe procedure, there are risks which may include:

  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • Nerve damage
  • Failure of the meniscus to heal
  • Pain or weakness in the knee

There is also a minimal chance of getting an infection or disease from the donor tissue. Patients should consider these risks before deciding to have a meniscal transplant.

Recovery from a Meniscal Transplant

After surgery, a knee brace and crutches are required for approximately four to six weeks. This allows the transplanted meniscus and surrounding tissue to become fully attached to the bone while it heals. Prescription medication may be used for pain. A physical therapy program is an important part of the rehabilitation process and will help patients regain flexibility,strength and motion in the knee joint. Activities can slowly be introduced during the rehabilitation period, however, full recovery from a meniscal transplant may take 6 months to 1 year.

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