If you’ve been told by an orthopedist that the only way to get rid of your unrelenting knee pain is surgery to repair a torn meniscus, step back and think it through carefully. You may be setting yourself up for greater trouble. The meniscus, a C-shaped piece of cartilage that serves as shock absorber and helps lubricate the knee joint, gets easily torn or worn down with age. As I told you several months ago, knee-pain relief from a torn meniscus is sometimes all in the mind—a study showed that people who had fake surgery reported feeling just as relieved and pain-free after the procedure as folks who had real surgical repair. Now, a new study has revealed a major, lasting side effect of surgical meniscus repair that you’ll want to avoid at all costs.


Here’s the bombshell—surgery for meniscus repair is associated with osteoarthritis, according to a team of radiology specialists from Boston University School of Medicine. The team studied five years’ worth of MRIs for 355 osteoarthritic knees, some of which had meniscus damage and/or had had meniscus repair surgery. The researchers assessed how many of those knees developed the osteoarthritis or cartilage loss within a year of either meniscus damage or meniscus repair surgery.

The results. Although cartilage loss commonly occurred within a year of meniscus damage, it more commonly occurred within a year of meniscus repair surgery. Sixty percent of the knees that had meniscus damage showed cartilage loss a year after that damage was diagnosed, but 80% of surgically repaired knees showed cartilage loss a year after the surgery. Also, osteoarthritis developed within a year in all of the knees that had had meniscus repair surgery compared with just 59% of the knees that had meniscus damage but no surgery. Surgically fixing a torn meniscus seemed to significantly increase rather than decrease osteoarthritis risk.


Rather than rushing to surgery to repair a torn meniscus, a better strategy might be to strengthen the knee with physical therapy, as the study authors recommended. So discuss this option with your doctor. And stay ahead of the game with this Daily Health News article on knee strengthening exercises.