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Torn Meniscus? Do You Need the Surgery?

Posted On 02/18/14

A lot of people enjoy fun in the Valley of the Sun. Runners and other outdoor enthusiasts take full advantage of the climate, and every so often, they over-train or sustain injury. One common result is a torn meniscus — a condition recently suffered by Phoenix Suns point guard Eric Bledsoe, who is out of play for the time being. While surgery is the standard treatment for a torn meniscus, a recent study suggests that surgery for a meniscus injury should not be so common.

There are two menisci in each knee. These U-shaped discs of cartilage are positioned between the femur and tibia. While they weaken with age, the menisci absorb weight and movement across the knee. A sudden twisting action can damage the meniscus, usually when the foot is planted while the knee continues to rotate.

An injury to the meniscus can result from virtually any sport, but is particularly common in tennis, skiing and basketball. Each year in the United States, consumers with knee pain and their insurers pay approximately $4 billion for meniscus surgery, the most commonly performed arthroscopic procedure. Is it worth it?

In December 2013, The New England Journal of Medicine published a Finnish study that compared the results of meniscus surgery to less invasive treatment like physical therapy. Comparing patients who received the meniscus surgery and patients who believed they received the surgery but did not (the control group), researchers drew the following conclusions:

  • For younger patients and those with a sports injury, meniscus surgery could be the best option.
  • For older patients, there was little difference in benefit and pain reduction between those who received the actual surgery and those who received the fake surgery.
  • Older patients with worn menisci should be evaluated carefully before opting for surgery.

Eric Bledsoe may or may not play again this season — he is currently rehabilitating from meniscus surgery. All surgery has risks and potential side effects. Consider all your options before undergoing a procedure, and if you suffer injury from a surgical accident in Phoenix, consult an attorney for help in taking legal action.