Meniscus Transplant

In this Article

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 [ann-ess-TEE-see-uh] 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.

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

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.

How is it done or administered?

Meniscus surgery is performed by an orthopedic [or-thow-PEED-ik] surgeon. This is not usually the same person as your normal doctor, but may be recommended to you by your doctor.

A meniscus replacement is usually done arthroscopically [ARTH-ro-SCAWP-ick-lee]. This means your surgeon will make a small cut on your knee and insert special tools and a tiny camera. Images of the surgery are projected on a screen. This type of procedure has smaller wounds so people usually heal and have less chance of infection. People that get this surgery do not need to have their knee fully cut open.

A meniscus transplant is usually performed under full general anesthesia, which means you will be put to sleep during surgery. After you are asleep, when you will not feel any pain, your knee will be cleaned and prepared for surgery. When the knee is ready, your surgeon will make the first cut.

After the surgeon makes the first cut, they will inspect the knee ligaments and cartilage to make sure that a meniscus replacement is the best option for you. They will also check your bones to make sure that you do not have severe arthritis.

If a meniscus transplant is still the best option, the surgeon will prepare the new meniscus to fit your knee. They will make a few small cuts on the front side of your knee that will be used to insert the new meniscus.. Your surgeon will remove any tissue that remains from your old meniscus. The new meniscus is put in place and may be anchored with screws or other devices.

If there are any other repairs that need to be made, your surgeon will make them before the wounds are closed. After the meniscus is placed and any repairs have been made, your surgeon will close the cuts, usually with stitches. They will cover the wounds with dressing.

Sometimes surgeons will take pictures of the procedure to show you what was found and what was done. If this is something you would like to have done, make sure to talk to your surgeon about it before the surgery.

When will I know the results?

Meniscus replacement is not an easy surgery, and the recovery can be difficult. However, most people have less knee pain and fewer symptoms after this procedure.

Talk to your surgeon about when you can expect results from your procedure.

What are follow-up requirements and options?

Your doctor or surgeon will give you specific after-care instructions. Make sure to follow them to help you as you heal.

After the surgery, you will need to keep your knee from moving, and will likely be given crutches. You may need to also wear a brace. Most people need to wait about 6 weeks before they can put weight on their knee again. Talk to your doctor about how long you will need to use the crutches and wear the brace, and how long it will be until you can put weight on your knee.

It may take up to a year before you can fully return to normal activity.

Follow-up appointments will be scheduled to help make sure that you are healing well. Keep all of them so that your doctor can watch your recovery and make changes if needed.

What is a meniscus transplant?

A meniscus [muh-NIS-cus] transplant is a surgery to replace a damaged meniscus with a new one, usually taken from someone who has died and donated their tissue. Tissue taken from another person is called an allograft.

Cartilage [CAR-till-uj] 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.