Meniscus Tears

Tears of the meniscus are a common source of knee pain. Tears can be due to sports injuries, slips and falls, car accidents and from degeneration. When a tear occurs from injury, pain is usually acute and sometimes the injury is associated with a pop and the development of swelling. The swelling could be immediate or occur over the next 24-48 hours. Pain is usually located at the joint line on the inside or outside of the knee. Degenerative type meniscal tears often occur gradually and got progressively worse but could have acute onset of pain as well. Associated signs and symptoms of a meniscal tear include pain at the joint line, swelling and sometimes locking or catching. In acute injuries, the meniscus can sometimes displace and cause locking or lack of motion of the knee.

Diagnosis of meniscal tear starts with a thorough history, physical exam and x-rays. X-rays are helpful to determine if there are any fractures with an acute injury, underlying arthritic changes and loose bodies within the joint. Underlying arthritis is frequently associated with degenerative meniscal tears. If x-rays are negative and clinical suspicion indicates a meniscal tear, an MRI may be ordered. Meniscal tears also occur frequently with ligament injuries to the knee, such as ACL tear. Special consideration should be given to meniscal tears associated with arthritic changes of the joint. In this particular situation, it is common to have a meniscal tear and arthritis at the same time. Current research indicates that in the majority of cases, pain comes from the underlying arthritis more so than the meniscal tear. It is common for your orthopedic surgeon to recommend nonsurgical management of a meniscal tear when there are significant arthritic changes present. There are certain indications and situations where more aggressive management of a meniscal tear would be warranted when they are underlying degenerative changes of the knee, a discussion with your surgeon will help determine which treatment method is most appropriate.

There are different types of tear patterns. They include vertical/longitudinal tears, radial tears (meniscal root variant), horizontal cleavage tears, complex tears, oblique tears, degenerative tears, and bucket-handle tears.

Treatment of meniscal tears depends on the level of symptoms, presence or absence of recurrence swelling, mechanical symptoms of catching and locking and the affective these on participation in sports or exercise. Treatment could include physical therapy, activity modification, anti-inflammatory medication and bracing. Treatment could also include injections, especially when there underlying arthritic changes. Surgical management is usually indicated for symptoms that are not responding to conservative treatment. Displaced bucket-handle tears causing locking or lack of motion usually require more urgent surgical intervention. The goal of treatment is to reduce pain, swelling and improve functional abilities and participation in exercise or sports. Below is a short video of a meniscal surgery I performed.

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Rotator Cuff

Shoulder pain is one of the most common complaints seen in the orthopedic surgeon’s office. There are many causes for shoulder pain, but one common cause is disorders of the rotator cuff. The rotator cuff is a group of 4 muscles called the “SITS” muscles, this stands for Supraspinatus, Infraspinatus, Teres Minor and Subscapularis muscles. These 4 muscles work in coordination with each other to provide fine tuning for shoulder stability, motion and strength. Disorders of the rotator cuff could range from bursitis to complete tears. Symptoms can develop due to aging, overuse or acute trauma. The most common cause of rotator cuff damage is due to age-related degenerative changes of the rotator cuff tendons. The incidence of age-related degenerative tearing of the rotator cuff increases every decade of life beginning in the 30s to 40s.

Symptoms of rotator cuff injury can include pain, weakness and loss of motion. Frequently patients complain of pain with lifting the arm above shoulder level, reaching behind her back, reaching to their side and lifting objects away from their body. Pain at night is a frequent symptom and often keeps people awake. After a traumatic event, patients can often have a loss of active motion and strength.

Diagnosing rotator cuff tears begins with a thorough history, physical exam and diagnostic x-rays. While x-rays may not show soft tissue damage, the x-rays will show if there is underlying arthritis, calcific deposits or other bone lesions that could be responsible for the symptoms. The history and physical exam often gives the orthopedic surgeon an idea of the severity of symptoms, duration of symptoms and amount of physical dysfunction from motion loss or weakness. When appropriate, an MRI may be necessary to confirm the presence or absence of a tear.

Treatment of rotator cuff tears ranges from non operative to surgical management depending upon the duration a symptoms, level of dysfunction and pain. Initial treatment with physical therapy or home exercises, possible injection and activity modification is usually the first line treatment for atraumatic rotator cuff symptoms. With these modalities fail to resolve symptoms and a rotator cuff tear is identified, surgical management with an arthroscopic rotator cuff repair and possibly open repair is an option. While many patients with known rotator cuff tears have minimal or no symptoms and normal function, it is generally accepted that approximately half of patients will develop rotator cuff tear enlargement or progression over time. It is important to follow these tears on a regular basis for tear progression even in the absence of symptoms, which could indicate the need for operative repair. It has also been shown that earlier repair of rotator cuff tears has higher healing rates from surgery. The treatment of each patient’s rotator cuff problem should be individualized based upon the patient’s overall activity level, level of symptoms, level of weakness or loss of motion and underlying health of the shoulder joint. Below is a short video of a rotator cuff repair I performed. The video shows an arthroscopic double row rotator cuff repair. I welcome comments and questions and will do my best to answer them for you here!

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