Meniscal Tear

Do you experience a sudden pain in your knee while walking or suffer from a severe difficulty while squatting down? It is quite likely that you are suffering from a common traumatic knee condition known as Meniscal Tear. Read on to know about the causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of this condition.

Meniscal Tear Definition

According to medical professionals, Meniscal Tear is the sudden ripping of the meniscus – a cartilaginous disk that acts as a cushion between the ends of bones that come together at a joint. This is one of the most common knee injuries to occur in people around the world. It arises more frequently in athletes and those who use their knee for stressful activities on a regular basis.

Picture 1 – Meniscal Tear

Meniscal Tear ICD9 Code

The ICD9 code for Meniscal Tear is 836.0-836.2.

Meniscal Tear Types

The condition can be broadly classified into various types depending on the proximity of the blood supply and body anatomy. The categories include:


Frayed edge

Tattered or worn out fronds of the sharp edges of the meniscus cartilage form one of the main characteristics of this disorder. Medical surgeons prefer to crop the infected area and clean it in order to avoid any kind of enzyme discharge from that spot.

Parrot-beak tear

This type of medical disorder can be identified by an ignored radial tear, usually a slanted one, taking the shape of a parrot’s beak.

Bucket-handle tear

This medical problem impairs the meniscus tissue and the knee rupture may spread, thus lowering chances of healing. When such splitting reaches the bottom of meniscus, it is known as “Bucket-handle meniscus tear”.

Flap tear

A flat tear at the surface of the meniscus cartilage is another distinguishing trait of this kind of medical problem. The torn flap frequently taps over, causing difficulties for the sufferer.

Radial tear

It is a sharp tear from the lateral rim to the medial rim.

Circumferential tear

The size of this kind of tear stretches along the length of the meniscus cartilage.

Horizontal cleavage tear

This kind of tear is atypical and is identified by a straight split in the meniscus body.

Medial Meniscus Tear

It is a type of injury identified by the splitting of the cartilage tissue of the knee joint, causing acute pain. The condition mainly arises due to excessive weight training. It also occurs due to twisting movements, as observed in sports that involve rapid changes in direction. A sharp pain at the inner, front or back section of the knee can be an indication of the rupture of meniscal tissue. Pain is also followed by a sudden ‘pop’ sound arising from the knee at the time of the injury.

Meniscal Tear Causes

The primary causes for this syndrome are:

  • Over-flexing of the knee joint
  • Lack of blood corpuscles in the centre area of the menisci, which prevents healing any kind of knee injury
  • Traumatic injury, which is common among athletes, due to frequent twisting or squatting
  • Degenerative injury, frequent among elderly person, due to weakened and worn out menisci tissues
  • Intense smoking, which leads to waning of the knee tissues and a subsequent chronic meniscal tear

A torn meniscus tissue restricts the ability of a patient to climb stairs or indulge in any kind of activity that includes concentrated knee movement.

Meniscal Tear Symptoms

The symptoms of this knee injury are distinct and can vary from one patient to another, based on the type of the tear and its exact location. However, many patients do not face any such problems before acquiring this particular disease.

Picture 2 – Meniscal Tear Image


Following a meniscal tear, the injured knee begins to swell within two days. If the meniscal split is due to degeneration, the swelling becomes prominent after several months have passed.

Knee function

Patients of this condition are unable to stretch their knee completely without experiencing intense agony. Bending or squatting of the knee becomes increasingly difficult during this ailment.


Patients are not able to walk without acute pain. Pain initiates when the leg is straightened. If the site of split lies between tibia and femur, leg strain becomes severe.

Lock Knee

The affected knee may get stuck and locked frequently during regular knee movements. This stiffness of the knee is caused by internal tear of the meniscal tissues.

Meniscal Tear Diagnosis

The medical diagnosis of this type of illness requires certain recommended clinical procedures and techniques, depending on the type of the disorder that one is suffering from.

X-Ray tests

It does not directly help locate the site of Meniscal Tear. However, it assists in detecting the cause of consistent pain such as Osteoarthritis in the knee bone.

Physical Examination

Proper examination by experienced orthopedic surgeon helps reveal tenderness along the knee joint where the meniscus cartilage is located. Weakened ligaments often lead to a severe rupture.

MRI scans

Also known as Magnetic Resonance Imaging, this technique displays a better image of the soft tender tissues of the knee joint. It also helps analyze the presence of any rupture in that location.

Meniscal Tear Treatment

The medical treatment for this type of illness requires curing of its root cause. It is mandatory for orthopedic surgeons to treat each cases of rupture individually to cure patients more quickly.  Factors like age and agility of a patient also plays an important role in determining the necessary treatment for this kind of disorder which includes use of surgical and non-surgical methods.

Non-Surgical Treatment

Non-operative cure for this condition involves:


Patients suffering from the disease should take ample rest and avoid the specific activity that they suspect as the cause of tear in the knee joint. If possible, patients should use crutches.


Cold packs should be applied on the affected knee for minimum 20 minutes. However, ice should not be applied directly to the skin.


An elastic bandage should be worn by the sufferer to evade any additional blood loss and internal swelling.


Patients should lie down and keep their legs at a position higher than the rest of their body to minimize swelling.

Surgical Treatment

The use of operative cure depends on the age of the patient, type of tear and various other factors. Arthroscopy is the most recommended process for treatment of this syndrome. It is typically performed to remove damaged pieces of meniscal cartilage. The process helps display a clear image of the inner portions of the knee. In very few cases, a torn meniscus can be repaired instead of removing it. However, surgery may not work efficiently with large tears.

Meniscal Tear Post-Operative Management

Following surgery, doctors advice patients to keep the affected leg in a brace to avoid any form of movement. Rehabilitation exercises are recommended once the tear heals from within. Regular exercise is highly recommended to help the knee regain strength and movement. Strength training exercises should be added to the training program at a later stage.

Meniscal Tear is a universal ailment that affects people of all ages. However, right treatment and proper diagnosis can help you recover from this painful disorder in a convenient way.

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