The meniscus is a specialist cartilage structure that acts as the shock absorber of the knee. For more information on meniscal tears click here.
Surgery to repair a “torn cartilage” of the knee is usually performed arthroscopically. This involves making a few small incisions around the knee to allow the insertion of specialised instruments into the knee. The meniscus is gently inspected to allow the anatomy of the tear to be evaluated. If amenable to repair it then roughened slightly to encourage the body’s healing response. The meniscus is then reduced back into it’s normal position and sewn in place with some specialist sutures developed specifically for this task.
In short, no, a torn meniscus cannot always be repaired. This is normally due to the type of tear that is encountered at surgery which due to the shape of the tear is not amenable to suturing. Alternatively it may be in an area of the meniscus which has a very poor blood supply and won’t heal, or a tear in a worn out and degenerative meniscal cartilage.
If the meniscus has been repaired then it is necessary to protect the repair during the healing phase of around 6 weeks. Under these circumstances you may be required to wear a brace to support the knee and prevent certain movements, and use crutches to keep the weight off the knee until it heals.