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The cartilage in the knee can be damaged causing a meniscus tear.
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About.com Health's Disease and Condition content is reviewed by Kate Grossman, MD
Information about a meniscus tear (torn cartilage)
What is a meniscus?
What does the meniscus do?
How does the meniscus work?
What is knee cartilage? Is it the meniscus or the ends of the bone?
When people talk about a cartilage tear, they a talking about a meniscus tear. When people talk about arthritis and wear of cartilage, they are talking most often about the articular cartilage on the ends of the bone. Hopefully that clears up some of the confusion.
The meniscus is C-shaped and has a wedged profile. The wedged profile maintains the stability of the joint by keeping the rounded femur surface from sliding off the flat tibial surface. The meniscus is nourished by small blood vessels, but the meniscus also has a large area in the center of that has no direct blood supply (avascular). This presents a problem when there is an injury to the meniscus as the avascular areas tend not to heal. Without the essential nutrients supplied by blood vessels, healing cannot take place.
What happens with a meniscus tear (torn cartilage)?
It is not uncommon for the meniscus tear to occur along with injuries to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and the medial collateral ligament (MCL)-these three problems occurring together are known as the "unhappy triad," which is seen in sports such as football when the player is hit on the outside of the knee.
What are the symptoms of a meniscus tear?
The most common symptoms of a meniscus tear are:
How is the diagnosis of a meniscus tear made?
X-rays and MRIs are the two tests commonly used in patients who have meniscus tears. An x-ray can be used to determine if there is evidence of degenerative or arthritic changes to the knee joint. The MRI is helpful at actually visualizing the meniscus. However, simply 'seeing' a torn meniscus on MRI does not mean a specific treatment is needed. Treatment of meniscus tears depends on several factors, as not all meniscus tears require surgery.
Read on for more information about treatment of a meniscus tear (torn cartilage)...
Updated: February 10, 2008
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