What is a meniscus transplant?

Cartilage  is smooth tissue that covers and protects the ends of long bones in. The meniscus is a ring of cartilage in the knee. It is located between your thigh bone and shin bones, and acts as a cushion or shock absorber. Because the meniscus is used during many daily activities, such as walking, standing, climbing stairs, etc., a meniscus tear can be a very painful injury. 

A meniscus transplant, also called meniscus replacement, is only done if most of the meniscus is already torn or needs to be removed. Sometimes the meniscus will be completely worn away or already removed by your surgeon, so the new meniscus just needs to be put in. If your meniscus is just damaged, the old meniscus will also be removed before the new one is put in. 

To perform meniscus surgery, your surgeon will make a small cut in your knee and use special tools and cameras to help remove the old meniscus, if needed, and put the new meniscus in place. 

What are the benefits?

If your meniscus is torn or removed, it may be hard to move your knee in a normal way, such as standing, walking, or using stairs. A meniscus replacement may make it so you can use your knee in a normal way again. 

If may also prevent knee arthritis by placing a cushion between the thigh and shin bones. This can help you have: 

  • Less knee pain 
  • Knees that don't buckle or “give way” 
  • Less knee swelling 
  • A more stable knee 

What are the risks and/or side effects?

Although most people have good outcomes as a result of this procedure, some risks are involved. There are some risks with the anesthesia used, and also with the transplant. These risks will vary based on your health, age, and how complicated your procedure is. Talk to your surgeon, and ask any questions you may have, to make sure you are aware of these specifics as they relate to your procedure. 

Some of the risks of anesthesia, which can happen in any surgery, include: 

  • Allergic reactions to your prescribed medicines 
  • Problems breathing 
  • Too much bleeding 
  • Infection 
  • Blood clots 

Some of the risks from the transplant include: 

  • Knee weakness 
  • Knee stiffness (most common) 
  • Knee pain 
  • The meniscus not fully healing 
  • The new meniscus tearing 
  • Disease from the transplanted meniscus (very rare) 
  • Nerve damage 
  • No relief of symptoms from the surgery 

Be sure you talk with your surgeon about the risks in your particular case. Get all your questions answered. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I prepare?

Make sure you tell your doctor and surgeon about any medicines, patches, supplements, or other herbs you may be using. You may also need x-rays done to help a plan for your procedure. 

Your doctor and surgeon will help you know what you need to do before your procedure. Before your procedure, you should also make sure you: 

  • Ask your surgeon if you should stop taking any medicine that might make it harder for your blood to clot, such as naproxen or aspirin. 
  • Ask your surgeon If there are any medicines that you need to take before your surgery, or on the day of your surgery. 
  • If you smoke, try to stop because smoking can slow the healing process. 
  • If you have heart disease or diabetes, make sure you talk to the doctor that treats you for these conditions about this procedure prior to getting surgery. 
  • Tell your surgeon if you have become sick before your surgery, such as with a flu, cold, herpes breakout, or if you have a fever. 
  • Tell your surgeon if you have been drinking more than two drinks that have alcohol in them per day. 
  • Arrange for a responsible adult to give you a ride home after your surgery. 
  • Make sure to set your home up and arrange to have any help, as needed, for the weeks following your surgery. You will need to keep your knee from moving and will most likely need to use crutches. 

On the day of your procedure, you should: 

  • Make sure you know about and follow your surgeon’s rules about not eating or drinking before surgery. 
  • Take any medicines before or on the day of your surgery per your surgeon’s rules. 
  • Follow all guidelines you are given when you arrive at the hospital. 
  • Make sure to arrive at the hospital on time.