Meniscus Anatomy

Each knee has two menisci.  There is a meniscus on the inner portion of the knee called the medial meniscus and a meniscus on the outer portion of the knee called the lateral meniscus. Each meniscus is C-shaped and made out of cartilage. The menisci live between the femur (thigh bone) and the tibia (shin bone) and act as a cushion during impact including walking, running, jumping and cutting.

Meniscus Pathology

The meniscus is susceptible to tearing due to the stress it undergoes and its poor blood supply.  A tear can result from trauma or degeneration of the meniscus.  There are different tear configurations and different tear locations.

MRI Demonstrating a Torn Medial Meniscus


The treatment of a meniscus tear is dependent on a number of factors including patient activity level, patient symptoms, patient age, tear location and tear configuration.

If your meniscus tear does not get better with rest or time or if you have significant symptoms from your meniscus tear, then it may be recommended that you have surgery for your tear. The majority of surgeries for meniscus tears are to trim out the torn portion of the meniscus (partial meniscectomy). This has to do with the ability of the meniscus to heal. Most tears of the meniscus cannot heal if repaired, so they are trimmed out.

In some cases, the meniscus can be repaired; particularly if it is in an area of good blood supply (meniscal repair).

Call Dr. Gibbs today for an appointment in Salt Lake City, Park City or Tooele, Utah to find out your options for your meniscus tear.

Meniscus Tear Information FAQ’s

What happens to a knee once part of the meniscus has been trimmed?

  • If a meniscus is torn and cannot be repaired, your surgeon may recommend a partial meniscectomy. This is a surgery where the torn part of the meniscus is removed. The meniscus acts as cushion to force transmission through the knee joint.  Removing some of this cushion exposes the knee to increased contact stress. In most cases, the part of the meniscus that is removed is not functional prior to removal.  Preserving as much meniscus as possible is critical during surgery to preserve knee function and prevent arthritis.

How is a meniscus tear diagnosed?

  • Your doctor will use a combination of the history, physical examination, xrays and often an MRI to evaluate your symptoms and determine if they are coming from a meniscus tear.  Often patients will report pain on the side of the knee where the meniscus is torn.  Patient will typically report mechanical symptoms (catching, locking, giving way…) which suggest that a flap of torn meniscus is moving within the joint. Patients will also have tenderness over the torn meniscus. An MRI (as seen above) will show fluid within the meniscus that communicates with the joint fluid.

How should I pick a surgeon for my meniscus tear?

See my blog post here.