Medical Illustrations

Picture of Torn Meniscus

Picture of Torn Meniscus

The knee is the joint where the large bones of the upper leg (femur), lower leg (tibia), and kneecap (patella) meet. Two pieces of “C-shaped” cartilage called the meniscus cushion the ends of the femur and tibia at the knee joint. A tear in this cartilage is called a meniscal tear. Meniscal tears have different names – longitudinal, flap, bucket handle, torn horn, and transverse – depending on where and how the cartilage tears.

Everyday activities like walking and climbing stairs put pressure on the knees. Running, jumping, and certain sports stress knee joints. A meniscal tear may occur due to squatting or twisting the knee the wrong way. Receiving a direct blow to the knee can also lead to a meniscal tear.

Pain, swelling, or difficulty bending the knee may be symptoms of a meniscal tear. A feeling of the knee catching or “giving out” may signal a potential tear. A doctor may use MRI imaging to help diagnose a meniscal tear. Soft tissue like cartilage is not visible on an X-ray, but X-ray imaging may help rule out other knee problems.

Small tears that do not progress or cause many symptoms may be treated with RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) and physical therapy. Severe tears or tears that cause symptoms that cannot be managed are treated with surgery and rehabilitation.

Image Source: MedicineNet, Inc.

Text Reference: "Meniscal Tears." American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.