The knee cartilage is one part of the body that seems to suffer a considerable number of injuries, both chronic and sudden. The oft mentioned osteoarthritis is one of the more insidious culprits due to its degenerative quality. Sports injuries can also cause damage to the knee cartilage in very painful ways.
Treatments for damaged knee cartilage vary from simple supplements to help foster healthier cartilage to surgeries to either clean up the damaged or torn cartilage, replace the cartilage donated cartilage from a cadaver or a total replacement of the knee joints if the cartilage proves to be too far gone for less intrusive treatments.
What is the knee cartilage?
The knee cartilage is technically referred to as the meniscus, which is located between the femur and the tibia. The meniscus comes in two parts, the outer part is called the lateral meniscus and the inner part is referred to as the medial meniscus. The knee cartilage acts as padding between the femur and the tibia within the knee join to protect the joints from damage because the knees bear the brunt of the body’s weight. Without this important padding the joints would deteriorate much quicker than they already do.
What kind of damage can occur to the knee cartilage?
Most of us are familiar with the aforementioned osteoarthritis but traumatic injury to the knees is also a prevalent cause of damage. Athletes suffer from this injury a lot especially football players who suffer hits to the outside of the knee. The tear to the meniscus most likely occurs when the knee is bent and it twists.When this type of injury in football happens either the ACL or the MCL, or both are injured as well. Whenever all the three parts are injured it is referred to as the “unhappy triad”.
How is a tear to the knee cartilage diagnosed?
Usually, the first thing that happens is that the knee will immediately swell and cause tremendous pain. Athletic trainers and doctors are trained to physically examine the injury by pressing on the area where the meniscus is located. If tenderness is noted then is likely to be a tear.Patients can also note a tendency for the knee joint to pop or crack when the joint is moved. If the patient’s knee locks in place and will not straighten there may be impingement in the joint caused by a tear to the cartilage that interferes with natural movement.
Doctors will use certain tools to verify the damage to the knee cartilage. An x-ray may be used to assess whether there is any other degenerative damage or arthritis in the joint. An MRI may be used to actually get a visual look at the meniscus to look for signs of a tear.
What are the treatments for damage to knee cartilage?
Depending in the type of tear incurred doctors will discuss with their patient the best options for treatment. They will also take into consideration other factors before deciding to use more invasive treatments. Those criteria include the age of the patient and the response to other simpler treatments.
If surgery is recommended, doctors will choose the procedure that will require the least invasiveness to the patient’s body depending on the activity level of the patient. The doctor may opt to trim the torn portion, repair the tear, or transplant a donated meniscus from a cadaver. The essential criteria is which procedure will help return the patient to his or her former activity at near the same level they had before the injury and which has the best recovery success factors.