What it is
Meniscectomy is the surgical removal of all or part of a torn meniscus. A meniscus tear is a common knee joint injury. Surgeons who perform meniscectomies (orthopedic surgeons) will make surgical decisions based on the meniscus’s ability to heal, as well as your age, health, and activity level.
The location (zone) of the tear is an important factor in a decision about surgery.
Tears at the outer edge of the meniscus (red zone) tend to heal well because there is good blood supply. Minor tears may heal on their own with a brace and a period of rest. If they do not heal or if repair is necessary, the tear can be sewn together using dissolvable stitches. This is successful 90% to 95% of the time in this outer edge area. (1)
The inner two-thirds (white zone) of the meniscus does not have a good blood supply and therefore does not heal well either on its own or after repair. If torn pieces dislocate into the joint space, which may result in a “locked” knee or cause other symptoms, the torn portion is removed (partial meniscectomy) and the edges of the remaining meniscus are shaved to make the meniscus smooth.
When the tear extends from the red zone into the white zone, there may be enough blood supply for healing. The tear may be repaired or removed. This is something the orthopedic surgeon decides during the surgery.
The pattern of the tear may determine whether a tear can be repaired. Horizontal and flap tears generally require surgical removal of at least part of the meniscus. The choice of type of surgery is based on the size and location of the tear, your age and activity level, the surgeon’s experience, and your preferences. Orthopedic surgeons most often perform meniscus surgery with arthroscopy, a procedure used to both examine and repair the inside of a joint. A thin tube (arthroscope) containing a camera and light is inserted through small incisions near the joint. Surgical instruments are inserted through other small incisions. Arthroscopic surgery may limit knee damage due to surgery and may promote fuller recovery. But some tears may require open knee surgery.